Could coronavirus be a food insecurity issue?
Governments all over the world are educating people on how they can avoid COVID-19 by staying home, when at the same time, millions of people such as low-income seniors, smallholders and family farmers, cannot afford staying away from the “field” for even one day.
“Leave work. Order groceries for as long as you can. Stay home and be patient until the crises pass.” Governments all over the world are educating people on how they can avoid COVID-19 by following these simple steps (along with hand washing combined to a considerable amount of sanitizer), when at the same time, millions of people such as low-income seniors, smallholders and family farmers, cannot afford staying away from the “field” for even one day. And that goes also for adults age 65+ who are also considered as high-risk cases. Many of these people have extremely limited options and they are also finding themselves in difficulty as far as meeting their basic nutritional needs in their everyday life b.C. (before Covid-19). There are families that cannot support their childrens’ nutrition without the school meals which are no longer available since schools are closed. Given the facts, couldn’t we assume that through all these, a serious food insecurity issue could be emerging? Such a case, could be additionally affecting the health and the survival of these people. You see, things may seem rather simple for people with sufficient resources, but what happens when the country is… older, more poor and fragile?
Through a very interesting interview at wfp.org, Arif Husain, World Food Programme (WFP)’s Chief Economist, affirms that “The economic consequences of this disease could end up hurting more people than the disease itself.”
As far as food and agricultural sector is concerned, labour shortages due to illness, transport interruptions and supply chain disruptions that could lead to a considerable loss of the production, are some of the main challenges that many smallholders could be facing sooner or later. “Think about poor people in many countries who rely on imports for their food and fuel needs and exports of primary commodities to pay for them. For them Covid-19 triggered global economic recession will mean a lot more expensive imports and a lot less money through exports.” mentions Arif Husain.
“It is still too early for an accurate assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on the economy,” he says and he continues by explaining… “What is sure is that an economic downturn is to be expected at the global level, and that this is likely to trickle down to developing economies. In these contexts, a slowdown in the economy can exacerbate existing food insecurity. It limits people’s ability to access nutritious food in different ways, including through reduced income or increased job insecurity”.
But is there any possible way to prevent coronavirus from turning into a food security crisis? His answer is clear. “The extent to which the Covid-19 will affect food markets is conditional upon countries staying calm even in the face of supply chain hiccups and not resorting to protective beggar-thy-neighbour policies. The smooth flow of global trade will help secure food supply and monitoring food prices and markets, while sharing relevant information transparently will strengthen government policies and prevent people from panicking.”
Last but not least, vulnerable countries and populations can be supported in order to respond to a possible shock deriving from Covid-19 just by creating safety nets which will provide any kind of assistance when needed.
Photo: Leonardo Cuffolo via Unsplash