The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it is calling for an initial investment fund of $1.2 billion to support the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, so as to scale up the fight of preventing a global food emergency crisis during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
This was announced during a virtual dialogue meeting titled; “Joint action on COVID-19: boosting our food and agricultural response,” with private and public sectors on Tuesday, according to a report published on the agency’s website.
The event was organised by the FAO with the hope to provide an agile and coordinated global response that will ensure access to nutritious food for all, through the mobilization of all forms of resources and partnerships at country, regional and global level.
It says in line with the UN approach to “build back better” post-COVID-19, and in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the new programme aims to mitigate the immediate impacts of the pandemic while strengthening the longer-term resilience of food systems and livelihoods.
In his remarks, the FAO director-general, Qu Dongyu, was quoted to have said, “We cannot employ a ‘business as usual’ approach anymore,” he said, adding that, “We must work very hard to limit COVID-19’s damaging effects on food security and nutrition.
“We need to be more country-driven, innovative and work closely hand-in-hand. This is how FAO has built its COVID-19 comprehensive response and recovery programme, and today we are asking you to join us.”
COVID-19’s impact on food
Besides being a major public concern, the COVID-19 pandemic can also be a serious threat to global food security, the report noted.
It highlighted that according to the World Bank’s estimates, the pandemic’s economic impact could push about 100 million people into extreme poverty.
“Soaring unemployment rates, income losses and rising food costs are jeopardizing food access in developed and developing countries alike and will have long-term effects on food security,” the report reads.
Meanwhile, latest edition report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, noted that even before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global food systems and livelihoods of millions of people at the start of the year, 60 million people were in a condition of undernourishment more with respect to 2014, and 10 million more with respect to 2018.
Before now, the Global Report on Food Crises released early this year estimates that 135 million people were acutely food-insecure and are in need of urgent humanitarian food and nutrition assistance.
Furthermore, it said the pandemic may plunge national economies into recession, and countries ought to take urgent measures to mitigate the longer-term impacts on food systems and food security.
“Equally urgent is the compounding threat of the pandemic on existing crises – such as conflict, natural disasters, climate change, pests and plagues – that are already stressing our food systems and triggering food insecurity around the globe,” the FAO report noted.
Key priority response areas
In the bid to minimise COVID-19’s damaging effects on food security and nutrition, while transforming global food systems to make them more resilient, sustainable and equitable, the FAO said its immediate action would be focused on seven key priority areas which include: Reinforcing a global humanitarian response plan for COVID-19; Improve data for decision-making; Ensure economic inclusion and social protection to reduce poverty.
It also hopes to bolster trade and food safety standards; Boost smallholder resilience for recovery; Prevent the next zoonotic pandemic through a strengthened “One Health Approach” and as well trigger food systems transformation.
In response to the current emergency, the FAO said they’re working on convening governments and multiple stakeholders in a call to action, gathering and analysing data to better understand emerging trends and pinpoint any deterioration, and providing prompt technical advice, though capacity development across a wide range of disciplines.
In addition, the organisation is offering investment support to leverage all forms of partnerships and finance, the report notes.
FAO’s deputy director-general, Beth Bechdol, said the efforts needed to importantly address the above mentioned seven priority response areas will be immense.
“The Food Coalition is an exemplary approach to leveraging high-level capital and political will to avoid an escalation of the pandemic from a health crisis to a food crisis,” he was quoted to have said.