Mitigating the effects of COVID-19 to protect food security and livelihoods
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which first emerged in December 2019 and has rapidly spread across the world, was declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020, and global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. Days later, the first cases were confirmed in East Africa, with new cases continuing to rise daily. In response, governments throughout the region have moved swiftly to adopt precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of international borders, movement restrictions, curfews and lockdowns. This has had far-reaching implications – not only affecting food trade, food supply chains and markets across Eastern Africa, but also people’s lives, livelihoods, food security and nutrition.
Previous crises, such as the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa in 2014, indicate the direct impact movement restrictions and disease containment efforts have on food availability, access, utilization and violence – particularly gender-based violence (GBV). The importance of maintaining and upscaling food security interventions for the most vulnerable populations, alongside the health sector’s efforts to avert disease spread, is therefore undeniable. The COVID-19 outbreak in South Sudan threatens to paralyze an already fragile food system and negatively impact more than 6.5 million people in South Sudan who remain vulnerable. At the same time, the core national capacities for prevention, preparedness and response for public health events is limited, and the healthcare system has been weakened by years of conflict, poor governance and low investments.
While health needs are an urgent and primary concern, livelihoods and food security-related impacts must not be neglected. Similarly, slow-downs or reductions in the delivery of humanitarian assistance could be catastrophic.
It is therefore critical to rapidly mobilize and pre-empt COVID-19 impacts on food security and livelihoods in South Sudan. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is thus pursuing a two-pronged approach: (i) maintaining and securing existing critical humanitarian operations, while ensuring (ii) anticipatory actions are in place to safeguard livelihoods and protect the critical food supply chain as a means to mitigate the secondary effects of the pandemic.
Based on its proven technical and operational capacity in South Sudan, FAO is seeking USD 46 million to maintain the provision of critical assistance where there are already high levels of need, while meeting immediate needs emerging from the effects of COVID-19 and in preparation of the recovery phase.
More specifically, FAO in South Sudan will draw on its wide network of field offices, innovative measures to implement large-scale food security and livelihood programmes in accordance with guidelines set by the government to mitigate
the spread of the virus, and above all the desire to ‘stay and deliver’.