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Food Crises and COVID‑19: Emerging evidence and implications - Technical note

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Introduction

In 2019, around 135 million people were facing crisis or worse (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification [IPC]/Cadre Harmonisé [CH] Phase 3 and above) levels of acute food insecurity, requiring urgent assistance across 55 countries (Global Report on Food Crises [GRFC] 2020). In addition, around 183 million were classified in stressed (IPC/CH Phase 2) conditions across 47 countries, on the verge of slipping into acute hunger if hit with further shocks or stressors1 . Following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‑19) pandemic, the global recession and disruptions to food supply chains are threatening livelihoods and food security, especially in countries already facing food crises and for the most vulnerable people working in informal sectors, including agriculture.

According to the recently published State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 (SOFI), in 2019 nearly 690 million people were chronically food insecure. Preliminary projections suggest that the COVID‑19 pandemic may further add between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of chronically undernourished in the world in 2020, depending on the economic growth scenario2 .

A number of policy measures were put in place both to contain the spread of the virus and to mitigate its negative economic and social effects. The current food security situation remains extremely volatile across various countries albeit with a wide diversity across contexts. Despite progress in food security monitoring, further efforts are necessary.
In this context, as a follow up to the campaign “Food crises and COVID‑19”3 , the Technical Support Unit4 of the Global Network Against Food Crises, in partnership with the Food and Nutrition Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation programme (FIRST), Food Security Information Network (FSIN) and IPC Global Support Unit (IPC GSU), has developed this technical note to present the emerging evidence on the effects of COVID‑19 on acute food insecurity, livelihoods and agri‑food systems, as well as an analysis of the effects of policy measures and responses related to COVID‑19 with a specific focus on countries with food crisis.

The note is mainly based on emerging evidence from country‑level food security analyses including: latest IPC and CH, and Famine Early Warning Systems Network updates (FEWS NET) and FIRST Country Profiles. The following section, entitled “Emerging evidence on the effects of COVID‑19 and related policy response on agri‑food systems”, is based on an analysis of relevant policies and COVID‑19 related urgent and essential restrictions from 15 FIRST country profiles between May and July 2020. The analysis is triangulated and complemented with emerging evidence from field monitoring systems and specific assessments of the potential impact of COVID‑19 on food supply chains and rural livelihoods5 , as well as available evidence and complementary sources from Global Network Against Food Crises partners6 .

Based on the emerging evidence, the final section of the report presents some concluding remarks and related implications for decision‑making, response and programming to inform addressing the shortand long‑term challenges, in an attempt to prevent further food crises, and to effectively and sustainably respond to these crises.