The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking $350 million to scale up hunger-fighting and livelihoods-boosting activities in food crisis contexts where coronavirus' impact could be devastating.
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Although the pandemic's full-scale and long-term impact on food security is yet to be revealed, evidence shows that in countries already hit by acute hunger, people are increasingly struggling to have access to food as incomes fall and food prices rise.
If farmers do not have access to their fields, or do not have the means or access to buy seeds and other inputs to plant or buy feed for their animals, planting seasons will be missed, cultivation will drop significantly and animals will be lost. This means that less food will become available too - in both rural and urban areas.
"We cannot wait until we finish dealing with the health impacts before we turn to food security. If we don't start implementing livelihoods assistance now, we will face multiple food crises. And a bill many times greater," warned FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at a briefing today on the UN agency's revised humanitarian response to COVID-19.
"It's becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic's impacts go far beyond health," said Ramesh Rajasingham, Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
"Acting early can prevent increasing vulnerabilities but also be a much more cost effective way of addressing this crisis. The role of emergency livelihoods interventions to save lives and livelihoods, and pull back people from the verge of famine is critical. Agriculture-based livelihoods are critical in most countries we work in as they are the main source of income for the majority of vulnerable populations. And this relies on seasons that cannot be missed or skipped," added Rajasingham.
"More and more global leaders are stressing that the pandemic could cost more lives in hunger than in those actually infected by the virus. The worst-case scenario is not a foregone conclusion, but we have to act fast - and at scale," said Dominique Burgeon, FAO's Director of Emergencies.
FAO's new funding request of $350 million is about three times more than in late March as COVID-19's staggering socioeconomic impacts become more evident. ■