The food systems that must give daily sustenance to all humans are under threat by the pandemic. If we want to avoid what could be the worst food crisis in modern history, we need robust and strategic international cooperation at an extraordinary scale.
Even before the pandemic, global food systems and food security were strained by many factors, including pests, poverty, conflicts and the impacts of climate change.
According to the latest Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, in 2019, close to 690 million – or nearly one in 10 people in the world – were hungry.
The Covid-19 pandemic could push an additional 130 million people worldwide into chronic hunger by the end of 2020.
Furthermore, in 2019, three billion people did not have access to healthy diets and suffered from other forms of malnutrition.
Together we can – and must – limit Covid-19’s damaging effects on food security and nutrition. The following three strategic shifts must guide our collective response.
First, we need quality data for better decision-making
Timely and effective responses to the impact of Covid-19 depend upon knowing exactly where and when support is needed, as well as how that support can be implemented best.
This means up-scaling work on data, information and analysis, and taking a bottom-up approach.
FAO is rapidly adapting and enhancing data collection methods at the country, regional and global levels. For instance, FAO recently released the FAO Data Lab to bring real-time data on food prices and sentiment analysis.
We have also developed the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, which brings more than a million geospatial layers to help prioritise interventions within countries.
These make visual datasets available to provide global early warnings on possible hotspots that may be affected by adverse weather conditions, and how they evolve over time.