New analysis by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Program (WFP) identifies 27 countries that are on the frontline of impending COVID-19-driven food crises, as the pandemic’s knock-on effects aggravate pre-existing drivers of hunger.

The joint analysis (pdf) by the FAO and WFP warns these “hotspot countries” are at high risk of—and in some cases are already seeing—significant food security deteriorations in the coming months, including rising numbers of people pushed into acute hunger. These countries were already grappling with high levels of food insecurity and acute hunger even before COVID-19, due to pre-existing shocks and stressors such as economic crises, instability and insecurity, climate extremes, and plant pests and animal diseases, noted FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.

“Now they are on the frontline and bearing the brunt of COVID-19’s disruptive effects on food systems, which are fueling a hunger crisis within a health crisis,” said Dongyu in a press release. “We must not think of this as a risk that will emerge sometime down the line. We cannot treat this as tomorrow’s problem. We need to do more to safeguard both food systems and our most vulnerable populations—right now.”

The FAO and WFP say that there are four main ways that COVID-19 is pushing people into deeper hunger:

  • Dropping employment and wages means that people have less money to spend on household food and that overseas workers send to relatives in food insecure countries as remittances. At the same time, food prices are up in many hotspot countries, posing a barrier to food access.
  • A range of disruptions associated with necessary pandemic and health countermeasures is also having significant—and increasing—impacts on food production and supply.
  • Plummeting government revenues mean that critical safety nets such as social protection and school feeding programs are underfunded and unable to respond to growing needs.
  • Finally, the pandemic may contribute to political instability as well as fueling conflict, for example, between communities over natural resources like water or grazing land or migration routes, which further disrupts agricultural production and markets.

Emerging evidence from ongoing FAO surveys in countries with food crises contexts reinforces the findings of the joint analysis, indicating that food production is emerging as a serious challenge.

In a bid to counter these trends, the FAO released a revised appeal for $428.5 million under the UN system’s Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 that addresses the mounting needs in the food and agriculture sector, focusing on urgent assistance to safeguard livelihoods, maintain food chains, and ensure the most vulnerable people can access and produce vital, nutritious food.

In This Article

  1. Food Security
  2. Food Policy

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