ROME, ITALY — The COVID-19 Food Coalition, launched by the government of Italy and led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is gaining momentum as more countries are joining the initiative in an effort to tackle medium- and long-term adverse impacts of the current pandemic on food systems and agriculture.
Presented in June, the coalition is a multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral mechanism that aims to mobilize political, financial and technical assistance in support of countries affected by the current crisis. It will offer a platform to develop a dialogue among diverse stakeholders, including private sector, academia, farmer organizations, civil society, governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others to provide country-tailored responses to the COVID-19 impacts on food systems.
Moreover, the coalition will serve as a forum for exchange of ideas and knowledge between various countries to work out solutions for members facing similar challenges when tackling the pandemic’s implications on food systems and food supply.
More than 35 have joined or offered support to the coalition so far.
Besides being a major public concern, COVID-19 can be a serious threat to global food security. Soaring unemployment rates, income losses and rising food costs are jeopardizing food access in developed and developing countries alike and will have long-term effects on food security and national economies, plunging into recession.
According to the latest FAO estimates, even before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global food systems and livelihoods of millions of people at the start of the year, almost 690 million people went to bed hungry, with 135 million being on the brink of starvation. Another 183 million were at risk of being pushed into extreme hunger if faced with an additional stressor, which sparks concerns particularly in light of the evolving pandemic.
Equally urgent is the compounding threat of the pandemic on existing crises — such as conflict, natural disasters, climate change, pests and plagues — that are already stressing the food systems and triggering food insecurity around the globe.
“In response to the current emergency, the Food Coalition will support existing FAO efforts to help countries get back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals on reducing hunger and malnutrition,” said Beth Bechdol, deputy-director general of the FAO. “We encourage all our members to join this initiative — an exemplary approach to leveraging high-level capital and political will to avoid an escalation of the pandemic from a health crisis to a food crisis.”
Emanuela del Re, Italy’s vice minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, added, “The global scale of the pandemic requires renewed efforts to eradicate world hunger. For this reason, the Italian cooperation approach aims to strengthen the link between humanitarian intervention and development, creating resilient food systems and strengthening sustainable supply chains. We will continue this action by supporting the further development of the FAO ‘Food Coalition’ initiative promoted by Italy.”
To minimize the impacts of the current emergency in the long run, the coalition will support FAO efforts to promote resilient and sustainable food production systems, improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, especially women, youth, indigenous peoples and family farmers, while addressing disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The Food Coalition also will complement and benefit from the FAO’s Comprehensive Response and Recovery Program, outlining seven key priority areas, launched earlier this month.
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