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Small Island Developing States Response to COVID-19: Highlighting food security, nutrition and sustainable food systems

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• The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the food security, nutrition and climate resilience of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which share many traits, including a reliance on international trade and imported foods; vulnerability to climate change, natural disasters and external economic shocks; malnutrition; and high rates of diet-related noncommunicable diseases.

• With SIDS and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concerned about achieving Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2 (no poverty and zero hunger), meeting the immediate needs of vulnerable populations should be prioritized, by supporting emergency food assistance, nutrition interventions and enhanced safety net and social protection programmes to lessen the impact of reduced incomes, especially on the poor.

• Action is needed to boost domestic food production in the short and medium term, ensuring farmers have access to productive inputs and financing for the coming planting and harvesting seasons, and to promote the consumption of local, nutritious food to help improve diets and reduce reliance on highly processed imported food.

• Prompt policy and fiscal measures are needed to ensure food supply chains are kept alive, domestically and internationally, with food able to move across borders and between islands and with new suppliers sourced (in cases where countries have stopped exporting), in compliance with existing food safety standards.

• Local government authorities play an important role in making sure food systems are considered essential and function in line with COVID-19 health directives; businesses, workers and farmers are protected and supported; and populations are well-informed about eating healthily and following good hygiene practices (communicating clear messages via social media, apps, community radio, traditional networks).

• Like other countries affected by COVID-19, the current situation offers opportunities for SIDS to rapidly adopt digital platforms, enhance their digital capabilities (digitization of value chain actors, e-payments, Big Data analytics) and strengthen island and inter-island communication networks.

• Reliable statistics and timely data, including early warning systems, are needed to allow SIDS to better plan for and respond to crises and shocks.