The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking $350 million to scale up hunger-fighting and livelihoods-boosting activities in food crisis contexts where COVID-19’s impact could be devastating.
In a report published on the FAO webpage, the agency said its new funding request of $350 million is about three times more than in late March as COVID-19’s staggering socioeconomic impacts become more evident.
It said the pandemic’s full-scale and long-term impact on food security is yet to be revealed.
The FAO said, currently, evidence shows that in countries already hit by acute hunger, people are increasingly struggling to have access to food as incomes fall and food prices rise.
“If farmers do not have access to their fields, or do not have the means or access to buy seeds and other inputs to plant or buy feed for their animals, planting seasons will be missed, cultivation will drop significantly and animals will be lost. This means that less food will become available too – in both rural and urban areas,” the report said.
“We cannot wait until we finish dealing with the health impacts before we turn to food security. If we don’t start implementing livelihoods assistance now, we will face multiple food crises. And a bill many times greater,” the FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, warned.
“If we support livelihoods now, we can help to reduce needs and avoid growing hunger. And protect the most vulnerable from the collateral effects of the pandemic,” said Mr Dongyu
Mr Dongyu said donors were generous and fast in responding to the desert locust upsurge during the past months, but highlighted that continued generosity and advocacy to prevent a steep rise in acute hunger.
“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic’s impacts go far beyond health,” said Ramesh Rajasingham, Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“Acting early can prevent increasing vulnerabilities but also be a much more cost effective way of addressing this crisis. The role of emergency livelihoods interventions to save lives and livelihoods, and pull back people from the verge of famine is critical. Agriculture-based livelihoods are critical in most countries we work in as they are the main source of income for the majority of vulnerable populations. And this relies on seasons that cannot be missed or skipped,” added Mr Rajasingham.
“More and more global leaders are stressing that the pandemic could cost more lives in hunger than in those actually infected by the virus. The worst-case scenario is not a foregone conclusion, but we have to act fast – and at scale,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s Director of Emergencies.
COVID-19 Impacts on Agriculture
The FAO said some 820 million people around the world are experiencing chronic hunger – not eating enough caloric energy, to live normal lives. Of these, 113 million are coping with acute severe insecurity – hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to their lives or livelihoods and renders them reliant on external assistance to get by.
It said these people can ill-afford any potential further disruptions to their livelihoods or access to food that COVID-19 might bring. As a result of the above, as of April and May, we expect to see disruptions in the food supply chains.
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Meanwhile, the Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) released in April said, over 135 million people in 55 countries and territories are faced with acute food insecurity, and this requires urgent action.
The coronavirus pandemic has continued to weigh heavily on agriculture and food supply.
According to Worldometer, as of Friday afternoon, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases was 5,933,322. However, 2,602,007 persons have recovered from the disease, while 362,629 fatalities have been recorded.