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COVID-19 pandemic drives global increase in humanitarian food assistance needs

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Labor migration restrictions limit seasonal income earning opportunities and crop production potential

FEWS NET is monitoring the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on acute food insecurity in monitored countries. The following Global Food Security Alerts are a part of a monthly series that aim to provide an update of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on acute food insecurity across FEWS NET geographies, highlighting countries of greatest concern.


COVID-19 containment measures have varied over the past month as governments balance mitigating the virus’ spread with limiting the negative economic and social effects of protracted lockdowns. These measures, including border restrictions, limit household access to key income generating activities and contribute to atypical price volatility in some areas. The broad trend has been towards easing restrictions, although the global economic contraction continues to limit labor and self-employment opportunities. Due to this decline in income among poor households, as well as the persistence of other drivers of acute food insecurity, including conflict and weather shocks, FEWS NET estimates 90 to 100 million people will be in need of humanitarian food assistance in 2020 across its 29 presence and remotely monitored countries, in line with FEWS NET’s estimate in May 2020. This represents a roughly 25 percent increase relative to anticipated needs prior to the pandemic.

Status of the pandemic

The World Health Organization estimates there were 142,283 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 4,241 deaths in the 29 countries FEWS NET monitors, as of June 22, 2020. FEWS NET-monitored countries comprise about 10 percent of the global population but only 1.4 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases to date. However, these cases are increasing exponentially, with an average of 3,290 reported daily cases in the first half of June, compared to 1,750 in May, and 340 in April. The true scale of the outbreak is likely under reported, highlighted by relatively high rates of positive tests in a number of countries, suggesting that tests are being selectively administered to those with more severe cases.