Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 in food crises (April–December 2020)

At the beginning of April, the 2020 edition of the Global Report on Food Crises was issued, presenting a stark warning for the future. In 2019 – prior to the COVID-19 pandemic – 135 million people experienced “crisis” and worse levels of acute food insecurity. A further 183 million were on the edge in “stressed” food security conditions. In other words, just one shock away from severe acute food insecurity. COVID-related restrictions risk pushing many more into crisis. As the pandemic progresses in food crisis contexts, food availability as well as food access could emerge as a serious concern – in both rural and urban areas. As the situation evolves, there is a real concern about the growing risk of famine in some countries, potentially even several famines occurring simultaneously. Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, globally there were 27 million people in “emergency” (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC]/Cadre harmonisé [CH] Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity, potentially on the brink of famine. The direct and indirect effects of the pandemic could have catastrophic effects on many of them. In April 2020, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) Global Food Security Alert warned about the risk that populations in northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen could face famine as consequence of the pandemic. In Somalia, the latest data from the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit indicates around 3.5 million people are projected to be in IPC Phase 3 and above through September – a three‑fold increase compared with early 2020.