The global response to the pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented disruption to the food supply chain. Farms, warehouses, processing plants, slaughterhouses and the distribution networks have been locked down on the pretext of a few workers being infected.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations assures us that there is enough food to go around. However, much of this will go to waste if it cannot reach populations who need it.
In the world on average, 9 million people die of starvation every year. The disruptions to the supply chain are likely to cause the death of millions more, nearly double, with the World Food Programme warning of a ‘Biblical famine’. The 130 million facing acute hunger last year will double this year to 260 million.
The developing countries are most at risk as they have less organized distribution systems and are dependent upon food aid. Several of these countries, such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan are already experiencing food and medical supply crises which will be exacerbated greatly by the lockdown and its ensuing effects.
The impact on Yemen will be devastating after years of civil war, states the head of the United Nations Refugee Agency. More than 24 million Yemenis – 80% of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. Half of the country’s health facilities are dysfunctional and nearly a quarter of the country’s districts have no doctors.
In India, where the lockdown is estimated to have cost their economy over $4Billion per day, millions of migrant workers have been displaced, having to leave cities with only 24hrs notice and many have been unable to find food and water.
In South Africa, thousands of people have been left with no choice but to join queues miles long, in order to receive food handouts.
The drastic increase in food scarcity has already driven up prices. For example, rice, the staple of the world has risen 70%. Coupled with the decimation of jobs, particularly those of migrant workers, who have little or no money to send back to their starving families, this threatens to be a crisis like no other.