Twenty-seven countries are facing COVID-19-driven food crises, as the pandemic's knock-on effects aggravate pre-existing causes of hunger, according to new research by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organizationand World Food Programme.
No world region is immune, from Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia, to Haiti, Venezuela and Central America, to Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria in the Middle East to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Liberia Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe in Africa, FAO and WPF found.
The joint analysis by FAO and WFP warns these "hotspot countries" are at high risk of - and in some cases are already seeing - significant food security deteriorations in the coming months, including rising numbers of people pushed into acute hunger.
These countries were already grappling with high levels of food insecurity and acute hunger even before the COVID-19 pandemic, due to pre-existing economic crises, instability and insecurity, climate shocks, and, plant pests and animal diseases, noted FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu.
"Now they are on the frontline and bearing the brunt of COVID-19's disruptive effects on food systems, which are fuelling a hunger crisis within a health crisis," said Qu.
"We must not think of this as a risk that will emerge sometime down the line. We cannot treat this as tomorrow's problem. We need to do more to safeguard both food systems and our most vulnerable populations - right now," Qu said.
WFP and FAO predict a vicious cycle of declining production, reduced agricultural labour opportunities and increasing food prices, resulting in negative coping strategies and a further deterioration of food and nutrition security.
In a bid to counter these trends, FAO on Friday released a revised appeal for $428.5 million under the UN system's Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.
"If we act now and at scale, we can keep as many people as possible producing food, safeguard their livelihoods and reduce their need for humanitarian food assistance, while laying the foundations for a resilient recovery," said Qu.
"It is not too late to prevent the worst hunger crisis in generations," he underlined.