Policy Analysis | COVID-19 and Food Insecurity: April 2021 Hot Spots Analysis

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Over a year into the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, health systems are strained, and secondary impacts are often worse than the initial health crises – threatening livelihoods, food systems, and social protections. This is particularly true for vulnerable populations that were already coping with multiple crises. The economic fallout of COVID-19 has caused global extreme poverty to rise for the first time in 20 years; the World Bank estimates that 119 to 124 million people were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020. The World Food Programme (WFP) projects the amount of people requiring food assistance will double, from 135 million people in 2019 to 271 million people in 2021.

Exponential growth of food insecurity is of particular concern given reduced incomes, slowed food chains and agricultural production, increasing food prices, limited protection of vulnerable groups, increasing political instability and fragility. As such, this document highlights countries with projections for high levels of acute food insecurity in the context of COVID-19 to inform response planning and advocacy efforts, with countries of greatest concern highlighted. Secondary data acquired from multiple sources and cross-referenced with existing analyses were used to select these priority countries.

Recommendations for Policymakers:

  1. Bolster humanitarian assistance, including immediate food assistance and protection for those most in need. COVID-19 has wrought havoc on people’s individual ability to obtain healthy, life-sustaining food. Humanitarian funding should help alleviate the immediate needs of the additional 271 million people in need of food assistance. 
  2. Address secondary impacts of COVID-19 through longer-term recovery and resilience activities. While addressing acute humanitarian needs are most urgent, if we do not address the secondary needs from COVID-19, we will become trapped in a cycle of exponential humanitarian need with no end in sight.
  3. Target the most vulnerable to food insecurity and address social cohesion. Address the immediate food security needs of groups that traditionally fall through the cracks, including those forcibly displaced, women and children, the disabled and elderly; and address fragility and conflict through social cohesion, peacebuilding and other efforts.
  4. Fund local actors to carry out COVID-19 response and meet the needs of local communities. Build on existing funding mechanisms that frontline and local actors already access to move quickly, including topping up existing multi-year grants, add to existing rapid response mechanisms and country/regional pooled funding and other umbrella mechanisms.
  5. Ensure quick and flexible funding. Early action and flexible response are vital to address acute food insecurity. Funding must allow for projects to respond to situational fluidity and support decision making at local levels.  

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