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Fully funded, coordinated response critical to avoid food security catastrophe from COVID-19

Post date Tuesday, 7 July, 2020 - 16:33

Release of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP): COVID-19 Progress Report, 26 June 2020

Message on behalf of Bruno Minjauw, global Food Security Cluster Coordinator

Dear colleagues,

Without an immediate and sustained response, the unprecedented health and economic crisis posed by COVID-19 could deteriorate into a global food security emergency. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has urged: “We must rapidly mobilize now to save lives and livelihoods, focusing attention where the risk is most acute. But we must also invest in the future, by addressing the shortcomings in our food systems that the pandemic has rendered so starkly obvious.”

The report provides an overview of progress made so far, the challenges dealt by COVID-19, as well as funding received to date. It also emphasizes the importance of swift, flexible and long-term funding in an evolving context. 

While fighting the direct health fallout of the virus, the world must address the growing collateral impacts. The pandemic could topple precarious situations for hundreds of millions of vulnerable people in severe food insecurity and those at risk of plunging into it. The report echoes the warning made by the World Food Programme (WFP) that the number of people on the verge of starvation could almost double by the end of the year – from 135 million to 265 million – if those on the brink tip over the edge. It further sounds the alarm on potential long-term consequences of the pandemic, which could lead to extreme food insecurity or even famine in as many as 35 countries.

With the number of people in need of food assistance climbing rapidly in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, the pandemic is expected to peak in the next two to six months in the world’s most fragile areas. The pandemic and associated global recession will cause vulnerability and food security needs to soar in countries already in a state of humanitarian crisis due to prolonged conflict, mass population displacements, economic volatility, desert locust, recurring natural disasters – and in some cases all these combined.

To save lives, it is crucial to work together to safeguard food access, availability and use, as well as the longer-term stability of food supply chains and the livelihoods of vulnerable families that rely on them. FAO estimates that up to 80 percent of the people already experiencing acute food insecurity before COVID-19 work in agriculture, as herders, farmers, fishers, and foresters – and most on a very small scale. As the lean season starts for many and monsoons and hurricane seasons loom on the horizon, the added cost of further disruption to their food systems from COVID-19 mitigation measures is simply not one they can bear.

The latest International Labour Organization report estimates that some 400 million people across the world will be pushed into unemployment in the second quarter of 2020 due to the pandemic. While incomes shrink and prices rise, there is an increasing need for livelihoods support, especially in fragile, crisis and post-crisis environments. Millions will lose incomes, fail to access resources needed for day-to-day well-being, and require new skills, training or ways to support themselves.

But it is not too late to prevent the worst-case scenario: a joint plan for the food security fallout of COVID-19 is central to mitigating it. The gFSC is coordinating food security response, data collection and anticipatory action for emergencies and protracted crises in 36 countries and regions.

Global food security sector requirements in 2020 have risen with the added needs to respond to COVID-19, to a record USD 8.2 billion to coordinate life-saving food security assistance for 81 million people. Of this, just USD 2.2 billion has been received so far, meaning almost 75 percent remains unfunded.

Sustained funding of national HRPs as well as the COVID-19-GHRP is urgently needed to ensure an ongoing, coordinated global food security response. The earlier we act, the greater number of people we save and the lower the financial burden.  

As UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock stated when calling on the world’s leading economies to help avoid further catastrophe: “We must come together to fight this virus, and as we do so, ensure that lifesaving relief operations around the world continue. It’s a moment for solidarity and global action.” That moment is now.

In making this call for action, I wish also to sincerely thank all Cluster staff across the world for the complex but crucial work they are continuing to carry out under very difficult circumstances. I am sure all our beneficiaries and partners would join in me saying how grateful we are to have such a strong and dedicated support system that ensures so many vulnerable people are reached with the help they so urgently need.

We trust that our financial partners have grasped the true extent of the emergency at hand and urge them to respond accordingly to ensure a coordinated response plan is fully funded in time and lives can be saved.

Thank you.

Bruno Minjauw
Global Food Security Coordinator

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