The COVID-19 pandemic is having a severe global impact across the world and while some economies may have resources to better support their needs, many other countries are not in such a fortunate situation. Initial humanitarian support was firmly directed at the health dimensions of the crisis. However, food and nutrition security and associated agriculture and food systems livelihoods have rapidly risen up the priority chart.
This paper should not be read in isolation at the regional level as it links the global frameworks such as the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)’s own contribution at the global level to actions identified and proposed at country level, to be coordinated through a broader multi-partner and multisectoral response.
There are a number of clear reasons why food security has attracted significant attention from national governments where agriculture and associated sectors are a major component of the economy and an even greater proportion of a country’s employment. This sector also demands the attention of international partners who wish to reduce the impact of what is perhaps the severest shock to urban and rural populations in more than 50 years. It is likely that the impact on food security and agricultural livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations will compound and intensify any health shock arising from the disease itself. In addition, millions more will experience hunger and malnutrition, figures are expected to increase over time. Particular attention should focus on women who hold a central role along food supply chains and food processing and associated industries. The impact affects lactating mothers, with increased child mortality and stunted growth. Millions more will lose their livelihoods in the agriculture sector, which is critical for the population at large in many of the least developed countries.
Some of the most food insecure countries in the world are in the Asia and Pacific region and these are the central focus of work at regional level. Attention has been drawn recently to rising levels of acute food insecurity in Afghanistan following a large-scale drought that comes in addition to the COVID-19 emergency. However, this is only one example of multiple colliding risks and across all countries food security is expected to further deteriorate over the coming months.