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Coronavirus: New World Food Programme (WFP) report shows access to food grossly unequal as coronavirus adds to challenges

Coronavirus: New World Food Programme (WFP) report shows access to food grossly unequal as coronavirus adds to challenges

A basic meal is far beyond the reach of millions of people in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic joins conflict, climate change and economic troubles in pushing up levels of hunger around the world, according to a new study released today by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

WFP’s Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report highlights the countries where a  simple meal such as rice and beans costs the most, when compared with people’s incomes. South Sudan is once again top of the list, with basic ingredients costing a staggering 186 percent of a person’s daily income.

Seventeen of the top 20 countries featured in the index are in sub-Saharan Africa. Five of the top 10 are in southern Africa: Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo.

“This new report exposes the destructive impact of conflict, climate change and economic crises, now compounded by COVID-19, in driving up hunger,” said WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley. “It’s the most vulnerable people who feel the worst effects. Now the pandemic threatens nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe”.

The report highlights conflict as a central driver for hunger in many countries, as it forced people from their homes, land and jobs, drastically reducing incomes and the availability of affordable food. The close connection between food security and peace was underlined last week when WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize  for its work fighting hunger.

In the country with the most expensive plate of food, South Sudan, violence in the east has already displaced more than 60,000 people and is crippling harvests and livelihoods. This has combined with COVID-19 and climate shock to create the threat of famine. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, the daily income spent on food by someone living in South Sudan has risen 27 points to 186 percent. If a resident in New York State had to pay the same proportion of their salary for a basic meal, the meal would cost US$393.

The Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report is released as WFP estimates that the lives and livelihoods of up to 270 million people will be under severe threat in 2020, unless immediate action is taken to tackle the pandemic.

The pandemic’s effects include mass unemployment and falling remittances, as well as disrupted trade and supply chains pushing up food prices. Southern Africa’s heavy dependence on food imports leaves it acutely vulnerable to the global economic downturn triggered by the virus.

“People in urban areas are now highly susceptible too, with COVID-19 leading to huge rises in unemployment, rendering people powerless to use the markets they depend on for food. For millions of people, missing a day’s wages means missing a day’s worth of food, for themselves and their children. This can also cause rising social tensions and instability,” said WFP Executive Director Beasley.

In DRC, nearly 22 million people are acutely food insecure – making it the world’s biggest hunger crisis – with intensifying conflict and displacement the main drivers. WFP’s support includes providing food and cash assistance, helping to build the resilience of vulnerable communities and fostering peace between traditionally rival groups. It aims to reach 9 million people there this year, up from a record 6.9 million assisted in 2019.

This is the third edition of WFP’s Cost of a Plate of Food report (formerly called Counting the Beans) with 36 countries featured this year. The report takes an estimated per capita average income across each country and calculates what percentage people must spend for a basic meal, some beans or lentils for example, and a carbohydrate matching local preferences. The price someone in New York State might pay was calculated by applying the meal-to-income ratio for someone in a developing country to a consumer in the US State.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).World Food Programme (WFP)
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