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Global Food Security Alert, July 31, 2020: COVID-19 pandemic drives global increase in humanitarian food assistance needs

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A rise in urban food insecurity occurs alongside efforts to suppress the spread of the virus

FEWS NET is monitoring the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on acute food insecurity in the countries it covers. This Global Food Security Alert is a part of a monthly series that aims 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. To find out more about how FEWS NET incorporates COVID-19 into its analysis, click here.

FEWS NET estimates 90 to 100 million people are in need of humanitarian food assistance in 2020 across its 29 monitored countries, roughly a quarter of whom are in urban and peri-urban areas (Figure 1). These totals represent a sizable increase and notable shift in the population in need of humanitarian food assistance relative to assessed 2020 needs prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when total food assistance needs were estimated to be roughly 25 percent lower, and one-tenth of needs were in urban and peri-urban areas.

Across the globe, governments continue to enact measures to suppress the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures consist largely of movement restrictions and social distancing that help limit the spread of the virus, though they also limit access to income-earning opportunities for many populations and slow trade activities. For example, poor urban households rely heavily on daily wage labor and self-employment to earn the income necessary to purchase food to meet their basic needs (Figure 2). However, COVID-19-related restrictions have led to a significant decline in income and food access among poor urban households. The current and anticipated impacts of COVID-19 on food security in urban areas across FEWS NET’s geographies are detailed below.