Millions weather food insecurity due to pandemic
The coronavirus outbreak is pushing 40 million people into food insecurity in South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean, the UN warned on Tuesday, calling for urgent action to avert a “hunger pandemic.”
The UN’s World Food Program stated that in the 11 countries where it operates in the region, the number of people facing severe food insecurity has increased from 3.4 million at the beginning of the year to 14 million now.
Factoring in those experiencing moderate food insecurity increases the total to 40 million due to the pandemic’s socioeconomic impact, said Miguel Barreto, the WFP’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The alarm comes as Latin America and the Caribbean passed 80,000 COVID-19 deaths on Monday as the virus spreads across the region.
“We are really worried about this health trend,” Barreto said. “Unfortunately, the news is also bad when it comes to the food security situation. Our projections paint a stark picture. We need to act quickly to prevent this crisis from becoming a hunger pandemic.”
In this part of the hemisphere, the WFP operates in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua in Central America; Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru in South America; and Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti in the Caribbean.
Barreto said the biggest concerns are Haiti, the four Central American countries and migrants in South America.
In Haiti, the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity has more than doubled from 700,000 in December to over 1.7 million now.
“There was a drought in Haiti and Central America at the end of 2019,” said Barreto. “Now with COVID-19, people are even more affected and suffering a great deal. If the next harvest in September is poor, the situation will deteriorate further.”
He said the WFP needs US$400 million to provide assistance in the region for the rest of 2020, but so far the financial-support forecast is troubling.
Across the region, the WFP is mostly working through cash-based transfers rather than food distribution, which has helped reduce the loss rate along the way.