This document presents FIAN International’s preliminary analysis of the impact of COVID-19 and the measures taken by governments around the world to contain the pandemic on the human right to food and nutrition (HRtFN). It is the result of a collective effort to monitor developments around the world over the last two weeks, and it is based on our mandate to support grassroots communities and social movements in their struggles to assert their rights.
This analysis is preliminary and does not reflect everything that is taking place around the world. Together with members of the Global Network for the Right to Food and Nutrition (GNRTFN), FIAN International will continue to monitor the situation and calls upon all organizations to share information.
The current health crisis is of great concern for humanity, causing illness and death in almost all countries. In a context of existing structural inequality and discrimination, the current health emergency is leading the world to a food crisis. The pandemic and the measures taken by states and other institutions to counteract it are having severe consequences for people and communities to produce and access sufficient and nutritious food. Since the exponential expansion of COVID-19, fears of a potential food crisis have escalated.
In a statement issued on March 19, 2020, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) pointed the following:
“As a result of these shifts and changes both in terms of addressing the disease and the broader economic fall-out, food availability is affected in both the short- and long-term. Food access is also compromised, in particular for those working in sectors that are likely to see job losses due to the recession as well for the poor who are likely to be made worse off. Nutrition is likely to be affected as people shift diets to more affordable as well as more shelfstable and pre-packaged foods (which may be less nutritious) and as fresh fruits and vegetables become less available due to panic buying and disruptions in food systems. Stability is compromised as the markets themselves are highly unstable leading to a great degree of uncertainty. Lastly, people’s ability to exercise agency over their relationship to food systems is compromised as inequalities are increased.”
Just a few weeks later, many of the predictions have come true. For several reasons, the adverse impacts on the HRtFN differ between countries and within population groups. In particular, groups that have already been marginalized and discriminated against due to their socio-economic status, rural and urban location, gender, age, ethnic belonging, among other factors, are facing a high risk of losing their access to adequate food and higher levels of food insecurity - and will generally face more challenges to exercise their food sovereignty.
The degree to which countries are affected also differs according to the ability of authorities to respond to the crisis. Their financial and administrative capacity and the nature and effectiveness of existing public policies– particularly regarding health, social security, food and nutrition – are key factors. Yet, it is the political decisions taken by governments to address the crisis which will determine - to a great extent - whether existing inequalities will be exacerbated or the realization for human rights and social justice will be reinforced.
Finally, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are intensified by the economic crisis that the world is entering. While this crisis has systemic roots that predate the pandemic, the looming economic crisis is leading to job loss and increasing marginalization of numerous groups of the population. In general terms, the economic crisis is having severe impacts on communities and people as well as on states’ capacity to respond to the challenges that a pandemic brings.
The document is available below.