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Ceres2030’s new analysis finds that USD 10bn is urgently needed to avert the COVID-19 hunger crisis

  |   SUN Civil Society Network, SUN Country Network

Ceres2030’s new analysis finds that USD 10 billion is urgently needed this year to prevent millions more people from becoming food insecure as a result of COVID-19. USD 5 billion of this must come from donor governments as aid, with the rest provided by developing countries themselves.

Without funding for social protection programmes providing food or money to people in developing countries, decades of progress in tackling hunger could be wiped out by the end of this year, with longstanding consequences.

The impact of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition

Ceres 2030’s economic modelling and analysis use data from the UN’s 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report. We found that an additional 95 million people could be affected by hunger over the course of 2020, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, taking us back to absolute levels not seen in almost two decades.

We found that USD 10 billion worth of social protection programs providing food or money could prevent a hunger crisis and ensure that people are able to maintain their pre-COVID-19 consumption levels and patterns. USD 5 billion of this must come from donor governments as aid, with the rest provided by developing countries themselves. This money is additional to the funds needed to help the 690 million people who were already hungry before COVID-19 in 2019, according to the latest SOFI report.

Equally important is the change in diets, as people in poverty who have less income are turning away from more expensive, nutritious foods like — fish, fruits, vegetables, and dairy — to cheaper but poorer- quality calories, such as sugar, oil, corn, and other staples. In addition, perishable foods face a greater risk of disruption than staple foods. These perishable products are important sources of protein and micronutrients, and not getting enough of them will have a negative impact on people’s health.

Even before the pandemic, too little was being done globally to end hunger. The number of hungry people had been rising for five years in a row according to the latest UN SOFI report, due to conflict, climate change and insufficient government action. COVID-19 has exacerbated an already urgent situation, with lockdowns leaving millions of people without work and unable to buy enough food. Hunger numbers could rise to levels not seen in almost two decades, seriously threatening the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 to end hunger by 2030.

Solutions

Ceres2030’s analysis shows that if governments provide USD 10 billion for social protection programs in Africa and South Asia, with at least USD 5 billion coming from donor governments as aid, then we could prevent a COVID-19 food security and nutrition crisis. Social protection programs are needed in the short-term to address the current crisis and into the longer-term to provide a safety net and boost incomes for the worst off. 

Social protection is an investment in people, ensuring they always have the means to buy nutritious food, send children to school, and get the healthcare they need. It can help prevent people facing short-term shocks from having to sell off livestock or other assets to pay for their next meal; or from being unable to feed their children, which can have permanent economic and social consequences. 

Ethiopia has one of the most effective social protection schemes in Africa. It uses a combination of cash transfers for those who cannot work and training and public job schemes for those who can to boost agricultural production and tackle hunger. Research has shown its impact is equivalent to reducing the length of the hungry season by one third.

There is a growing consensus on the need for these measures. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called for governments to strengthen social protection systems for nutrition.

With the right social protection policies and long-term investments to build sustainable and resilient food systems, governments can not only avert a COVID-19 hunger crisis, but put the UN goal to end hunger by 2030 back on track.

• What would it cost to avert the COVID-19 hunger crisis? – Download the report

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