The WNBA has been Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) member of the United Nations since 1959.
On April 21, 2020, the Global Network Against Food Crisis (the Network) released the latest edition of their global report. The report shows that at the end of 2019 close to 135 million people across 55 countries were experiencing crisis-level acute food insecurity. This report rendered an already grim portrayal of food insecurity, even before the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect food systems.
On September 15, 2020, the Network, along with its founding partners the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the World Food Programme (WFP)*, held a virtual event to provide an opportunity for partners and bilateral actors to discuss emerging priorities, financing, and programming implications in light of COVID-19.
Jenny McGee, the Associate Administrator at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), stated that the pandemic’s effects would have 100 million additional people descending into poverty and chronic hunger; in fact, many remaining there in 2021 and beyond.
Peter Eriksson, the Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden, said, “Millions of people are dying from hunger as we speak, and millions will continue to die if we do not provide action. We must prevent one pandemic from turning into another — a food pandemic.”
Thanks to data collection we now know how dire the situation is.
At the virtual event, speakers discussed possible measures and solutions. Most spoke extensively on the significance of data and the prominence of accurate, efficient, and globally accessible data.
It is this data that governments must make themselves cognizant of. “Listening to numbers is crucial. Numbers provide a reality that we cannot hide away from,” said Nick Dyer, the UK’s Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a series of unparalleled challenges on the world’s economy. It has further impacted food systems by challenging food security and given rise to unexpected hunger levels.
Janez Lenarcic, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, pointed out that these are new challenges that have worsened the current food crisis.
Data has further drawn out that it is the triple threat of COVID-19, armed conflict, and natural disasters that can escalate this crisis further in vulnerable nations. And data has also successfully provided information that will help us develop strategic and poignant response measures to tackle this issue.
USAID is an example of how data is vital to combat the food crisis. USAID has been a longtime supporter of evidence-based analysis to respond to humanitarian crises. The agency values reliable and accurate data to draw out analysis.
USAID’s analysis has shown that there’s been a 25% increase in food security measures from 2019 to 2020 in the most susceptible countries.
However, beyond numbers, the world needs actions and lasting solutions. Besides financial mobilization and protection against armed conflict, governments must endorse a single data set or global assessment system.
Dyer stated that such a universal system can reduce the confusion surrounding multiple data lists and will consolidate data concisely.
Djime Adoum, Executive Secretary of the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel CILSS, has worked extensively in the Sahel in Africa. He claimed that data collection must be thorough and protected by organizations. The key, he believes, is to improve the performance of information systems.
What the data exposed drove him to become more proactive in creating competent measures.
Data in the Sahel found that malnutrition is worst for children under age 5, and price malfunction is up to 50% for basic food materials. Furthermore, inaccessibility to biomass and pastoral resources coupled with animal and human movement restrictions across borders resulted in a decline in income-generating activities or no jobs.
“It is in this context that COVID-19 invited itself,” Adoum said. “In times of shock, it is crucial to take stock of the effect of the virus, especially to question and critically analyze information systems.”
One method to improve information systems is to utilize big data, and this happens through collaborations.
Qu Dongyu, the Director-General of FAO, highlighted that through alliances with international organizations, large multi-national corporations, and even academic institutions, reliable data has been pouring in. “We are now seeing a collaboration with Google to enhance the global platform for big data further,” he said. FAO has been instrumental in creating a vast data platform complete with rich data sets on food, agriculture, socioeconomics, and natural resources.
However, the buck does not stop there. Dongyu said, “Now, we need to refocus our energy on accurate data collection and data traceability.”
There are both advantages and obstacles to combating 2020’s food crisis. As the keynote speaker, Susanna Moorehead, the Chair of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, affirmed that organizations now know what they’re doing, unlike in the ’80s. Again, thanks to data. “But now what we’re missing is financial and political action. And we must mobilize both,” she said.
The pandemic’s effects will be long-lasting. Governments and global partners must come together to fight this brewing crisis of food insecurity and hunger. And unfortunately for the world, this food crisis comes with a brand-new threat.
But we cannot shy away from it this time.
Like Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Sectary General for OCHA said, “Unlike the virus, we cannot say that we did not see this coming because we are seeing this happen in real time.”
*The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Programme on October 9, 2020.
- International Development Cooperation of Sweden
- The Global Network Against Food Crisis
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
- World Food Programme
- United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
- Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel CILSS
- Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
Suggested Reading List
COVID-19 Food Crisis Articles
FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme
FAO’s Data Platform
Organizations’ Efforts Against Global Hunger and Food Crisis
World Food Programme
Ishani Singh was born in New Delhi, India where she completed high school. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in History at Delhi University followed by a one-year postgraduate liberal arts program at Ashoka University in Sonepat, Haryana. Ishani’s first job was working as a journalist at Scroll Media in India. Soon after she worked as an editor at the bio-digital publishing house, Sahapedia; a publisher of works on Indian culture and arts. Ishani is currently pursuing an MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media degree at NYU and works as a freelance editor and writer in New Delhi. She aspires to start a magazine of her own that is globally inclusive and representative of all sections of society. Ishani represents the WNBA as a Youth Representative at the UN.