The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that humanity is placing too much pressure on the natural world and has laid bare profound inequalities in societies. Deforestation, wildlife trade and conversion of land for highly intensive and unsustainable agriculture and livestock production, are destroying ecosystems and increasing interactions between wildlife and humans, opening the door to infectious disease outbreaks.
My first exposure to the effects of malnutrition occurred in 1999 in central war-torn Angola. Due to the armed conflict, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) were fleeing their homes and hunkering down in various camps huddled around the outskirts of the main town.
For many adolescents, COVID-19 has meant school closures, little contact with friends and a frustrating barrier to their lives and livelihoods. As difficult as those challenges are, however, the coronavirus has had even more serious repercussions. Namely, food and access to it. Although the data is still coming in, it appears that COVID-19 could reverse decades of hard-won gains when it comes to food security.
New estimates show that the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to widespread increases in malnutrition due to disruptions in food, health and social protection systems. Lockdown measures are disrupting the production, transportation, and sale of nutritious, fresh and affordable foods, forcing millions of families to rely on nutrient-poor alternatives.
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) Executive Director Lawrence Haddad today agreed that greater efforts must be made to transform food systems through innovative collaboration with the private sector, during a virtual round table on Business Strategies on Delivery of Healthy Diets for a Healthy Planet.
As the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19 combine with serious pre-existing environmental, social, political and economic strains, our food systems find themselves under unprecedented pressure. The silver lining is that this uniquely challenging context has prompted renewed focus on finding scalable solutions to protect lives, livelihoods and our planet.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of life, including how food is distributed, purchased and consumed. In low-income countries, consumers have had to contend with higher food prices and less fresh, nutritious food available to eat. While the pandemic has had a devastating short-term impact on all those who rely on local food systems, it has also exposed their underlying fragility.
From empty supermarket shelves to vegetables thrown away uneaten due to shutdowns, COVID-19 has revealed many vulnerabilities in global and local food systems. Not only that, but the pandemic has also reminded us of the essential role nutrition and food security play in boosting immunity and resistance to disease.
World Food Safety day in 2020 falls during an ongoing pandemic that has sickened millions, killed hundreds of thousands and cost trillions of USD. The emergence of COVID-19 has been associated with wet or traditional markets, and there are many studies, reports and blogs on how it is affecting food systems.
Scares involving food contamination tend to make headlines when they occur in high-income countries. These rare outbreaks are all the more dramatic because consumers usually take for granted that the food they purchase will be safe: in high-income countries, governments have rigorous food safety standards with staff and budgets to support their enforcement, and many major retailers establish their own standards and procedures for ensuring that the food on their shelves is safe to eat.