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Covid's food insecurity

Written by: Pragya Thapa

Food insecurity simply refers to the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.In other words, it is the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources.

There are two forms of food insecurity; chronic and acute.Chronic food insecurity is described as food deficit as a result of overwhelming poverty indicated by a lack of assets.Acute food insecurity is usually considered to be more of a short-term phenomenon related either to manmade or unusual natural shocks.

Due to COVID-19, An increasing number of countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, reversing years of development gains. Even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, chronic and acute hunger were on the rise due to various factors including conflict, socio-economic conditions, natural hazards, climate change and pests. COVID-19 impacts have led to severe and widespread increases in global food insecurity, affecting vulnerable households in almost every country, with impacts expected to continue through 2021 and into 2022.

Numerous countries are experiencing high food price inflation at the retail level, reflecting lingering supply disruptions due to COVID-19 social distancing measures, currency devaluations, and other factors. Rising food prices have a greater impact on people in low-income and middle-income countries since they spend a larger share of their income on food than people in high-income countries.

Some food producers also face losses on perishable and nutritious food as consumption patterns shift towards cheaper staples. Though current food insecurity is not driven by food shortages, factors like supply disruptions and inflation affecting key agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and seeds, or prolonged labor shortages could diminish next season’s crop. If farmers are experiencing acute hunger, they may also prioritize consuming seeds as food today over planting seeds for tomorrow, raising the threat of food shortages later on.

COVID-19 is estimated to have dramatically increased the number of people facing acute food insecurity in 2020-2021. WFP estimates that 272 million people are already or are at risk of becoming acutely food-insecure in the countries where it operates.

For example, in Afghanistan, measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have disrupted planting, leaving Afghan farmers unable to sow their crops on time, while in urban areas food prices are rising with shortages in the food supply becoming more urgent.

Similarly, in Nepal, the lockdown has continued to adversely impact food availability through production as well as trade/distribution as the supply chains of inputs and farm products are disrupted. On the other hand, the pandemic has now made the country and the people realize the problem when a country depends on other countries for food.

Additionally, at least four countries around the world—Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso—are facing the looming prospect of famine, with no less than 13 countries close behind.

The year ahead may genuinely make or break success toward the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger in all its forms—particularly since hunger increased in the years leading up the Covid-19 crisis. In fact, WFP executive director David Beasley has warned that 2021 could see the worst humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded, and a UN special envoy has warned that the potentially worst food system impacts of Covid-19 in developing countries were simply deferred, not avoided.


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