The repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic could nearly double the number of people experiencing serious food insecurity before the end of 2020. The situation is particularly dire for those living in conflictaffected settings. In these instances, violence has already impeded people's ability to produce, process, and access food or to obtain food to eat. In countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen, the combined effects of conflict, COVID-19, and other factors have gravely exacerbated food insecurity and put millions of people at risk of famine.
But not everyone experiences food insecurity in the same ways. Women and girls are disproportionately and uniquely affected by food insecurity. Pervasive cultural and social norms often dictate that women and girls are responsible for providing food for their families but also that women and girls should eat last and least. COVID-19 is making food insecurity worse for women and girls. Virus-control measures are preventing them from producing or processing food and they are more likely to lose their jobs due to the economic effects of the pandemic. With few coping mechanisms left, women and girls are facing an unprecedented crisis.
To prevent famine, support lives and livelihoods, and address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in areas experiencing conflict and extreme hunger, including DRC, northeast Nigeria, South Sudan, and Yemen, the U.S. Administration and Congress must:
Ensure adequate flexibility of food aid modalities, with food assistance provided in whatever forms---such as cash, vouchers, or in-kind assistance---are most appropriate and effective in each context;
Provide at least $20 billion in further supplemental funding to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects around the world;
Ensure continued funding for programs that support the needs and rights of women and girls, including those focused on gender-based violence prevention and response, women's economic empowerment and rights, and youth engagement;
Engage in robust diplomacy that includes women and girls to prevent and resolve the conflicts that drive humanitarian need. This includes promoting accountability and compliance with the law of armed conflict and human rights law, particularly in support of principled humanitarian access;
Actively work to achieve political solutions to crises, promote durable solutions to displacement, and support communities to recover and rebuild their lives and livelihoods. These processes must include women and girls to ensure gender-transformative recoveries and sustainable futures;
Collaborate with local organizations, especially women-led organizations that are already responding to the crisis. These organizations are best positioned to assist communities in the midst of conflict and the pandemic, as well as to prepare for and lead future humanitarian responses.