FAO has unveiled its comprehensive COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, aimed at preventing a global food emergency during and after the COVID-19 pandemic while working on medium to long-term development response for food security and nutrition
The agency is calling for US$1.2bn in initial investment to support the needs of the new programme.
The programme was launched during a virtual dialogue with private and public sectors entitled "Joint action on COVID-19: boosting our food and agricultural response". The event was organised by FAO to provide an agile and coordinated global response that ensures access to nutritious food for all by mobilising all forms of resources and partnerships at country, regional and global level.
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.
"We cannot employ a ‘business as usual' approach anymore," highlighted FAO director-general QU Dongyu in his opening remarks, 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."
Addressing COVID-19 impacts on food systems
Besides being a major public concern, the COVID-19 pandemic can also be a serious threat to global food security. 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 jeopardising food access in developed and developing countries alike and will have long-term effects on food security.
According to the latest edition of FAO's report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 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, 10 million more people were in a condition of undernourishment with respect to 2018 and 60 million more with respect to 2014. The Global Report on Food Crises 2020 estimates that 135 million people were acutely food-insecure in need of urgent humanitarian food and nutrition assistance.
Furthermore, 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.