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COVID-19 May double world hunger rates

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the world’s most vulnerable communities across 47 countries, Action Against Hunger is applying insights from their past work on cholera and Ebola prevention; behavior change techniques related to water, nutrition, and hygiene programs; and decades of combating life-threatening malnutrition.

The organization also is ramping up hunger prevention programs, as the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises, released yesterday, reveals that the number of people facing serious food crises is at a four-year high. Experts at Action Against Hunger and the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) warn that the pandemic threatens agricultural activities and supply chains and could double the number of people suffering from deadly hunger.

Frontline aid workers from Action Against Hunger are available to speak to journalists about COVID-19’s impact on the most vulnerable, and the steps being taken to prevent both hunger and the pandemic’s spread. Examples include:

  • Bangladesh: With one of the largest operations in Cox’s Bazar, a camp with approximately 900,000 Rohingya refugees, Action Against Hunger is working to reach nearly 10 percent of the population with hygiene kits and handwashing facilities, audio-visual education, psychosocial support, food distribution, and quarantine spaces, since physical distancing is extremely difficult.

  • Ethiopia: In this populous and linguistically diverse nation, Action Against Hunger is translating educational materials and piloting new approaches to get the word out, scaling up distribution of soap and water purification tablets, and water trucking to arid areas. “COVID-19 exacerbates pre-existing vulnerabilities for a double or triple burden,” said Country Director, Panos Navrozidis.

  • Jordan: Working with Syrian refugees in camps where social isolation is not possible, aid workers hope to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by distributing hygiene kits, providing cleaning supplies for communal latrines, and emphasizing the urgency of handwashing.

  • Nigeria: Action Against Hunger is working closely with the Ministry of Health to stock clinics with sanitation supplies and distributing cash transfers to families that can’t afford basic necessities. The nonprofit also is preparing for disruptions to the region’s food supply.

  • Peru: One of the few organizations still operating in Peru after its lockdown, Action Against Hunger is helping to strengthen government health systems, with a focus on rural areas where child malnutrition levels remain high. As COVID-19 spreads, Country Director, America Arias, is concerned that xenophobia towards Venezuelan migrants might increase. The organization is distributing food to both host and refugee communities.

Spokespeople are also available in Haiti, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda, where Action Against Hunger is running innovative programs — such as hosting COVID-19 radio broadcasts and helping female refugees make up for lost income by producing and selling soap — to help mitigate the health and economic impacts of the novel coronavirus.

Action Against Hunger served more than 21 million people last year, working in communities experiencing conflict; climate shocks such as droughts, floods and historic plagues of locusts; and where there are high poverty rates and large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people. Now, with the new threat of COVID-19, the nonprofit is strengthening infection prevention through specialized training for staff, expanding handwashing stations, sharing prevention messages through mass mobilization campaigns, and modifying waiting areas in hunger treatment clinics so patients and visitors observe physical distancing.