Food insecurity levels anticipated to rise as COVID-19 hits

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  • COVID-19 will exacerbate poverty and food insecurity
  • The pandemic has affected supply chains

Harare – The COVID-19 global crisis unfolded at a time when the number of acutely food-insecure people in the world had already risen over the past four years largely due to conflict, climate change and economic downturn.

In 2019 in the Southern Africa region, repeated extreme climatic shocks resulted in the highest peak in acute food insecurity of the past decade.

The situation is aggravated by widespread poverty, chronic malnutrition and macroeconomic shocks in countries like Zambia, Angola and Zimbabwe.

According to a combined Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations  and World Food Programme (FAO-WFP) early warning analysis of acute food insecurity hotspots report of July 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic will deepen and increase poverty and food insecurity.

Restrictive measures have been put in place in most countries to avert the spread of the virus, and these are further deepening food insecurity especially among the most vulnerable communities that have seen their incomes curtailed, and coping capacity decreased as consecutive years of little rainfall resulted in reduced agricultural outputs and economic downturns.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having significant and likely increasing implications for food production and supply, which is particularly concerning in already fragile settings.

The smooth functioning of food value chains and the flow of agricultural products are critical to food security and nutrition.

However, government measures such as import restrictions and movement limitations, necessary to contain the spread of the virus, have been disrupting entire food chains from production to processing, packaging, transporting, marketing and consumption well as livestock movements, which are critical for the survival of pastoralists.

In Zimbabwe, the pandemic is impacting an already critical food security situation resulting from the ongoing macroeconomic crisis and consecutive years of drought, and is likely to result in a further increase in the number of food-insecure people.

The country endured one of the driest seasons on record, leading to significant cereal deficits for a second year in a row.

The economic impact of the pandemic is already observed through further currency depreciation and inflation.

Year on year inflation came in at 732.26% in June while monthly inflation rose from 15.23% in May to 31.66% in June, the highest level of price increases recorded since September 2019.

The loss in purchasing power due to falling incomes, lost remittances and, in some contexts, higher food prices will disproportionately affect the ability of the urban poor and other market-dependent groups to access food.

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