700, 000 people in Haiti with severe food insecurity and this year this number will raise to 1,6 million for Haiti.”
Millions in Latin America and the Caribbean at risk of severe food insecurity due to impact of Covid-19
The COVID-19 pandemic may turn into a hunger pandemic for millions of people in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The agency warned today that as many as 10 million additional people could join the ranks of the poor and hungry across 11 countries, including some of the small island nations in the Caribbean.
“The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 can push an additional 10 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean into severe food insecurity”, said Elisabeth Byrs, WFP senior spokesperson, speaking today via videoconference at the UN in Geneva.
In 2019, 3.4 million people in the region were already facing severe food insecurity - meaning that they were in an emergency-like situation of not being able to meet their basic food needs.
The Latin America and Caribbean region has recently been battered by economic shocks, erratic climate, displacement of population and a situation of social insecurity. It is currently considered the global epicenter of COVID-19 spread, worsening an already dire situation for many.
“We need to act quickly and decisively, if we are to prevent this crisis from becoming a hunger pandemic”, said WFP’s Elisabeth Byrs.
WFP supports governments and reach the people most in need with food rations to take home, vouchers and cash to shop at local stores. In emergencies such as COVID-19, it is vital that national social protection programmes adapt and expand to protect the most vulnerable, such as migrants and people in the informal economy.
“WFP is particularly concerned about vulnerable people in Haiti”, its spokesperson said. “We have 700, 000 people in Haiti with severe food insecurity and this year this number will rise to 1,6 million for Haiti.”
Cash and food distributions are taking place every week in Haiti. WFP operates a helicopter in the country to carry medical personnel, supplies and hospital equipment to areas that are difficult to reach by road.
“We are concerned about what we call the Central American Dry Corridor. I mean El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. There were 1,6 million in this corridor people food insecure in 2019, and this year we will have 3 million,” Byrs said.
More than 80 million children in the region stopped receiving school meals once schools closed because of the pandemic. For many, that plate of food was their only meal of the day. Take-home rations have been distributed to families in Haiti, Colombia and Honduras as an alternative to children's school meals.
The number of Venezuelan migrants with severe food insecurity in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru could rise from 540,000 to more than 1 million, WFP estimates.
The hurricane season in the Caribbean, starting in June, is an additional risk for which governments will need to prepare.