With 196 countries affected, the coronavirus pandemic is on track to reshape the economy and society on a global scale. Health systems are naturally the focus of COVID-19 conversations as the first line of defence in tackling this pandemic and rightly so. However, we must also recognise the role of food and food systems - not only as vital systems facing serious challenges at the moment but also as a determining factor in how well we recover.
As such, we've pulled together a number of thought pieces highlighting the impact of COVID-19 on food, food systems and more.
"Countries that rely on imported grains to feed their populations have ramped up purchases to ensure they have sufficient stockpiles to see out the pandemic," note authors. Prices of wheat and rice are sharply rising due to a short-term dislocations and countries are starting to restrict agricultural imports - what they refer to as a "perfect storm".
By analysing past experiences of disrupted food and agriculture systems, this new FAO resource provides a compilation of policy responses to help keep supply chains alive and guide our food policy response to COVID-19.
"As the pandemic spreads the interaction between people and the food system is changing at an unimaginable speed and taking on greater importance in everyday life." This article by USCN outlines how food environments are being disrupted by COVID-19 and identifies examples of positive policy actions to protect food environments.
"Africa has reached a 'break the glass moment', an emergency in which international actors need to take drastic action if the world's poorest continent is to avoid a human and economic catastrophe." This FT article outlines the challenge of tackling coronavirus in African countries, its implications for the continent's economy and weak health systems, and identifies actions for national and international actors.
"African countries need support in preparing for the health crisis and for the economic fallout. The measures taken in Asia, Europe and North America will be a particular challenge for countries with limited internet connectivity, dense populations, unequal access to water and limited social safety nets." Ahead of G20's emergency meeting, African Finance Ministers and UN Economic Commission for Africa identify three ways G20 can support Africa.
"In this wonderfully diverse region, each area has its distinct challenges. The common thread is that people are vulnerable and there’s always an emergency ahead. First it was prolonged drought, followed by floods. Then locusts descended, threatening food supplies. Now, we’re facing a pandemic," says Hijar. As more cases of domestic transition arise, aid worker Hijar in eastern Africa contemplates what the coronavirus pandemic will do to an already fragile population.
"As countries wage war on COVID-19, they should have a battle plan to lessen shocks to food supply chains — to protect most vulnerable and the rest of the population. Supply chains must be kept alive," warns Maximo. Drawing on global examples, this article outlines how countries can achieve this.
"How will the crisis shape the food system if we do nothing? And what can we do to get the food system in better shape to improve the consumption of nutritious foods for all?" Authors outline the effects of COVID-19 on our food system and access to nutritious food, ways to mitigate these impacts and opportunities presented by the pandemic to get food (systems) back on track. This information is nicely summarised in this table.
More than 320 million children around the world are now missing out on school meals due to school closures because of COVID-19. This news release outlines how WFP is working with governments and partners to ensure school children and their families receive continued food and nutrition support.
Will COVID-19 have negative impacts on global food security? Whose food security and livelihoods are at risk due to the pandemic? FAO’s Q&A outlines what we know of the impact of COVID-19 on food and agriculture.
A narrative series by David Nabarro, Special Envoy on COVID-19, provides strategic advice and high-level political advocacy on the coronavirus, touching on learns for global leadership, impact on business, the need for coordinated action and much more.
"The public health impacts of COVID-19 are broader than the disease itself because of its impacts on food security and nutrition" finds HLPE. This draft issue paper outlines the short and long-term impacts of the pandemic on nutrition and food security in terms of both supply and demand. It also outlines key messages and recommendations for governments.
"COVID-19 poses considerable risks to already vulnerable populations living in countries with severe development deficits, limited government capacity and poor healthcare infrastructure. While the coronavirus has been slow to reach Sub-Saharan Africa, most experts agree that its impact there is imminent," says Chase. Find here five concerns as the coronavirus spreads and how WFP is responding.
"Abundance — and convenience — comes a hidden cost that COVID-19 has exposed: a loss of resilience. Our global food system depends on the tendrils of international trade to wrap the world in an ever more complex system of buyers, sellers, processors and retailers, all of whom are motivated to keep costs low and operations lean," says Evan. In the face of COVID-19 and climate change, this article highlights the need to value resilience alongside efficiency in our food systems.
"Considering that the ag sector contributes to 7% of China's GDP, the impact of COVID-19 on China’s economy would equally affect the agricultural and food security sector. We can anticipate an immediate impact and a longer-term impact – which could potentially have global consequences," says Matteo. Based on personal observations, IFAD staff member based in China shares his reflections on the impact of COVID-19 on achieving SDG2.
"With the pandemic potentially triggering a global economic slowdown, leaders are already looking for ways to shore up their countries’ economies. Approaches to stimulate growth will have long-lasting effects. What governments should avoid is trying to boost their economies in the wake of one global health crisis by exacerbating another — namely air pollution," says Helen. This article tracks the path from low-carbon, climate-resilient growth to lasting economic and social benefits.
"COVID-19 is a health crisis. But is could also lead to a food security crisis if proper measures are not taken," warns Shenggen. In light of existing global food security challenges, this IFPRI article highlights lessons learned from previous epidemics and identifies actions to prevent a food security crisis.
"How well China – and any country - will be able to provide safe, accessible, and available food both during and in the aftermath of COVID-19 will depend on its resilience," reflects Erin. This article explores how the pandemic has affected food access, affordability and availability in China and the government's response to tease out what can be learnt from this crisis.
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