The number of people facing crisis levels of hunger in the world could double due to COVID-19, the World Food Programme (WFP) warns.
The WFP is estimating 265 million people could experience acute hunger and food insecurity due to lockdowns and economic slowdowns related to COVID-19. According to a recent international report, an estimated 135 million already faced acute levels of food insecurity prior to the pandemic.
“We’re talking about families that need urgent and immediate food assistance, families that are missing meals or even going without food for days unless assistance is provided,” says Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. “The lockdowns and economic crises are adding millions of families to these numbers. It’s extremely concerning to hear that COVID-19 could double the number.”
“We are hearing reports from our partners and reading many news reports confirming that more and more families are losing their jobs and livelihoods and need immediate help, or they will not have enough food for their family,” he says. “Many people in developing countries live day-to-day, so even a short-term loss of income can lead to severe hunger. The huge economic slowdown around the world is throwing millions of families into a food crisis.”
Just as Canada has deemed grocery stores and the expansion of social safety nets as essential services, the Foodgrains Bank sees its international food assistance programs as an essential service and is working with its members and partners to keep these programs going at this critical time.
“For the most part, our members and their partners have been able to continue providing emergency food assistance for refugees and families already experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity,” Cornelius says. “They have quickly adapted their programs to protect beneficiaries and staff from contracting COVID-19 and to meet the requirements of local health authorities.”
The Foodgrains Bank is also approving funding to renew existing programs and start new ones. In the first two weeks of April, the organization approved $10 million for vital food assistance programs in Syria, Lebanon and South Sudan.
“In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to provide desperately needed food to help meet the immediate food needs of so many,” says Cornelius.
“At the same time, we are also working with our members and partners to sustain long-term development programs that are designed to address underlying causes of chronic, ongoing hunger,” he says. “While many of these programs have been disrupted and some activities delayed or suspended, we are working to ensure partners are able to continue providing support to the extent possible and can quickly re-establish all their program activities once they are able.”
Canadians who want to respond to global hunger needs amid COVID-19 can visit foodgrainsbank.ca.