FAO Seeks $350 Million to Fight Surge in Hunger

FAO Seeks $350 Million to Fight Surge in Hunger

The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, is seeking $350 million to help it in scaling up the fight against hunger and also boost livelihood activities in food crisis situations where COVID-19’s impact could be overwhelming.

FAO's new funding request of $350 million is about 3 times more than what it sought for in late March, this is because of the overwhelming socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic. FAO's humanitarian response to COVID-19 is part of the Global COVID-19 Humanitarian Response Plan, and according to the organisation, additional funding is urgently required to address new needs emerging from COVID-19.

Although the pandemic’s full-scale and long-term impact on food security is yet to be revealed, evidence shows that in countries already hit by acute hunger, people are increasingly struggling to have access to food as incomes fall and food prices rise. If farmers do not have access to their fields or do not have the means or access to buy seeds and other inputs to plant or buy feed for their animals, planting seasons will be missed, cultivation will drop significantly and animals will be lost. This means that less food will become available too, in both rural and urban areas.

“We cannot wait until we finish dealing with the health impacts before we turn to food security. If we don’t start implementing livelihoods assistance now, we will face multiple food crises. And a bill many times greater,” the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization, QU Dongyu warned.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic’s impacts go far beyond health,” said Ramesh Rajasingham, Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“Acting early can prevent increasing vulnerabilities but also be a much more cost-effective way of addressing this crisis. The role of emergency livelihoods interventions to save lives and livelihoods, and pull back people from the verge of famine is critical. Agriculture-based livelihoods are critical in most countries we work in as they are the main source of income for the majority of vulnerable populations. And this relies on seasons that cannot be missed or skipped,” added Rajasingham.

“More and more global leaders are stressing that the pandemic could cost more lives in hunger than in those actually infected by the virus. The worst-case scenario is not a foregone conclusion, but we have to act fast – and at scale,” said Dominique Burgeon, FAO’s Director of Emergencies.

Some Facts and figures on hunger and the pandemic's impact on food security around the world:

There is a growing risk of famine in some countries, potentially even several famines occurring at the same time. Even before the pandemic, some 135 million were experiencing a crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity, out of which 27million people in "emergency" levels of acute food insecurity - on the brink of famine.

In East Africa and the Near East, where 42 million people are facing acute food insecurity, curving the desert locust outbreak is critical to safeguarding livelihoods and food security. Somalia is currently experiencing multiple shocks, including Desert Locust, flooding and COVID-19.

The FAO-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit, FSNAU, warned in May that some 3.5million Somalis are in "crisis" level of acute food insecurity and above through September 2020 - a three-fold increase compared to early 2020, over 100% greater than hunger figures in an average year, and worse than in 2017 when there was a high risk of famine.

In Afghanistan, more than one in three Afghans - some 10.3million people- are projected to be acutely food insecure between June and November.

Bangladesh is experiencing breakdowns in transportation systems leading to the dumping of perishable food products and dramatic price reductions at the farm-gate, affecting producers' food security.

For many high-risk countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, the period between April and June coincides with the planting season for main crops. Net food-importing countries (e.g. Caribbean countries, Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela) are particularly vulnerable due to currency devaluation and trade constraints.

While there is a high potential for a significant rise in acute food insecurity at crisis level and above in the coming months, this is not inevitable.

"If we support livelihoods now we can help to reduce needs and avoid growing hunger. And protect the most vulnerable from the collateral effects of the pandemic," said Qu.

"Donors were generous and fast in responding to the desert locust upsurge during the past months. We need this continued generosity and advocacy to prevent a steep rise in acute hunger. Thank you for your action now," added the FAO Director-General.