COVID-19 and Hunger

The COVID-19 virus has affected every country with nearly 127 million confirmed cases and more than 2.7 million deaths, as of March 2021. The coronavirus pandemic has also caused devastating economic consequences, and its shadow pandemics—including hunger—are threatening the lives of millions more around the world.

The World Bank reported in 2020 that the pandemic could push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021 and put 14 countries at high risk of experiencing severe food insecurity.

Your prayers and generous support enable Catholic Relief Services to respond to the impact and risks of COVID-19 in the most vulnerable communities. During this critical time, innovative approaches prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure families and communities continue to receive the support they need to survive and thrive.

South Sudan

South Sudan experienced a second wave of COVID-19 cases at the end of 2020. In Darfur, CRS has partnered with the health ministry to share information about the virus through community awareness sessions, materials and radio spots.

The combined impacts of COVID-19 and desert locust swarms pose a considerable threat to communities’ access to food across East Africa. In much of South Sudan, hunger and lack of food were major concerns prior to the pandemic, particularly in remote, hard-to-reach areas. CRS, in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Food for Peace and the World Food Program, has been working to improve food security and help communities build up resilience to shocks such as drought, flooding and conflict-driven crises.

“Catholic Relief Services is adapting its programming to ensure we prevent the spread and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” says John O’Brien, the CRS country representative in South Sudan. “We’ve adjusted our distribution activities to safeguard staff and participants.”

CRS implements safety measures—including increased hand-washing, risk communication and physical distancing—at food distribution events. We also provide extra food to individual households to help families and communities cope while travel and public gatherings are suspended.

People in South Sudan practice social distancing while waiting to receive food rations

Participants in the USAID Food for Peace-funded Resilience and Food Security Program practice social distancing while waiting to receive food in Twic East, South Sudan. Photo courtesy of James Jok/CRS


With schools closed across Guatemala due to COVID-19 restrictions, thousands of students who receive what is often their only meal of the day through school food distribution programs now lack access to critical nutrition. To address this issue, CRS is working with the Guatemalan Ministry of Education to provide take-home rations of rice, corn, vegetable oil and black beans to more than 50,000 students through the USDA-funded McGovern-Dole Food for Education project. Providing this food for families to take home while schools are closed will support thousands of children who are at risk for chronic malnutrition.

In addition to supporting food and nutrition needs, CRS works with local Caritas partners and the Guatemalan health ministry to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through training, supplies and awareness campaigns.

CRS has provided protective equipment and training to health workers and shared prevention information through text message, WhatsApp and radio spots to reach thousands of people in communities across the country. We have supplied masks, gloves and cleaning supplies to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have partnered with Caritas San Marcos to distribute hygiene supplies to more than 4,500 families, with the goal of supporting nearly 90,000 people total.

COVID Guatemala

CRS in San Marcos, Guatemala—with the support of USAID and Caritas San Marcos—distributes hygiene and sanitation supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo by Ivan Palma/CRS


Last November—as the Philippines continued to grapple with COVID-19—Typhoon Goni destroyed tens of thousands of homes and caused more than $250 million in infrastructure damage. CRS and our partners helped more than 2,000 families access emergency shelter and provided hygiene supplies to 8,000 families—critical interventions to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

Typhoon Goni affected more than 500,000 families during the COVID-19 pandemic. CRS and partners provided emergency shelter kits, hygiene supplies and clean water and are helping families build back safer homes. Photo by Jomari Guillermo/CRS

CRS is also supporting people with disabilities and workers in the informal economy as the community quarantine continues to affect their livelihoods and access to food.

CRS helped a residential facility for people with disabilities secure a one-month supply of food and other necessities that the residents themselves selected during remote consultations. Supplies include fresh vegetables and fruit, rice, eggs, canned goods, soap, toothpaste, bleach and other items.

Working with Caritas in the Philippines, CRS provided cash grants to people who have been unable to work due to COVID-19 so they can buy food and other supplies.

“I used to earn seven dollars a day, but since the lockdown I have been relying on my siblings’ help to feed my three children,” says Pablito Velasquez, a motorcycle taxi driver who received a cash grant. “With this money, I will be able to buy rice and food supplies for my family.”


As the spread of COVID-19 exacerbates the plight of our sisters and brothers who experience hunger and malnutrition around the world, we must lead the way to achieve a world without hunger.

Help families and children access enough nutritious food by joining our campaign. Together, we can lead the way to a more just world.

Urge Congress to provide foreign assistance to meet the needs for food security around the world.


Tags: covid