COVID-19 Impact: The Seeds of a Future Hunger Pandemic?

In past pandemics, we have seen that more people can die from the indirect consequences of an outbreak than from the disease itself. As the fight against the pandemic pushes millions into poverty and hunger, COVID-19 will likely be no different.

With more than 40 years of experience fighting hunger, Action Against Hunger has long understood the impact of large-scale emergencies, witnessing the Ebola outbreak, war-torn countries, and extensive displacements. This pandemic is, however, unique, with its sheer magnitude differentiating it from other crises. This insight reveals, along with previous experiences, that direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 on health, hunger, and food insecurity are already extensive. It expands and fosters worrying trends that we have seen since 2017 with the global rise in hunger.

As of today, quick and substantial adapted development and humanitarian aid responses are needed. The first observations from our worldwide programs have taught us that the COVID-19 impacts are multiple and massive, varying from one region to another, depending on its rural or urban localization, as well as food availability and access. Responses therefore need to be comprehensive and adapted to each context. To implement an effective response, humanitarian and development actors must work alongside communities and civil society organizations to jointly define both the needs and the appropriate response.

Over the past several months, Action Against Hunger programs and teams in more than 40 countries worldwide have been actively working to contain the spread of the virus. They have been providing direct support to affected people while continuing responses to ongoing crises. They have also been supporting people, communities and local authorities to prevent further suffering as well as building more resilient health, food, and social protection systems.

We must use this crisis as an opportunity to strengthen these systems, to prevent future outbreaks and hunger crises. Promoting adequate access to basic water and sanitation services, mental health and protection, building universal health coverage, reaffirming our commitment to principled humanitarian actions, and transforming food systems and security policies to improve our resilience to ongoing and future shocks must also be prioritized.

We now call on the international community to collectively make political commitments and take action as well as use every political opportunity to both avoid a hunger crisis and radically transform our collective model, for the benefit of all.