Week of 20 April 2020
Impacts of COVID-19 on both the food supply side (transport and processing disruption) and the food access side (purchasing power) could double the number of people suffering from acute hunger – from 135 million in 2019, to 265 million in 2020 (according to the UN World Food Programme)
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on 23 April that the COVID-19 pandemic could double the number of people who are suffering from acute hunger — from 135 million in 2019, to 265 million in 2020. This is an additional 130 million people.
The WFP’s announcement comes alongside the release of research (the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises) into the status of hunger in 2019, produced with 15 other humanitarian and development partners. This report highlights that in 2019:
- The majority of people suffering acute food insecurity were in countries affected by conflict (77 million), climate change (34 million) and economic crises (24 million people).
- The ten countries with the worst food crises were Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, the Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti. More than half of the affected population were in Africa.
When it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on hunger, the report notes that:
- The pandemic may well devastate livelihoods and food security, especially in fragile contexts and particularly for the most vulnerable people working in the informal agricultural and nonagricultural sectors. A global recession will majorly disrupt food supply chains.
- The 55 countries that are home to the 135 million acutely food-insecure people are the most vulnerable to the consequences of the pandemic as they have very limited or no capacity to cope with either the health or socioeconomic aspects of the shock.
- Under-nourished people tend to have weaker immune systems and therefore are at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
- On the food supply side, movement restrictions necessary to contain the spread of the virus will disrupt the transport and processing of food.
- On the food access side, rising unemployment and under-employment is likely to severely reduce people’s purchasing power – in particular daily wage earners in the informal economies, service sector employees and migrant workers, as well as families of migrant workers reliant on remittances.
The report authors recommend rapid collective action to pre-empt the impact of COVID-19 on food security and food systems.