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WHO: The impact of Covid-19 on food systems and livelihoods

CAPE TOWN – WHO reports on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had people’s livelihoods, their health and food systems.

The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a rapid and unprecedented number of deaths worldwide affecting countries and their economies leaving many vulnerable and unable to meet their basic needs without support and assistance from others with tens of millions of people at risk of falling into extreme poverty with WHO reporting that 690 million suffer from malnourishment and could possibly increase to 132 million by the end of the year.

“Millions of enterprises face an existential threat. Nearly half of the world’s 3.3 billion global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Informal economy workers are particularly vulnerable because the majority lack social protection and access to quality health care and have lost access to productive assets. Without the means to earn an income during lockdowns, many are unable to feed themselves and their families. For most, no income means no food, or, at best, less food and less nutritious food,” said WHO in the statement.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the entire food system throughout the world adding pressure and emphasising the fragility of the sector with border closures, trade restrictions and confinement measures preventing farmers from access markets to buy and sell produce, disrupting domestic and international food supply chains, affecting agricultural workers jobs and reducing healthy, safe and diverse diets WHO said.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has decimated jobs and placed millions of livelihoods at risk nut within the agricultural sector small-scale farmers, agricultural workers and indigenous people are being hit the hardest especially those in lower-income countries which are forced to work in order to earn an income even in unsafe conditions exposing themselves and their families to additional risk and possibly pushed towards negative coping strategies such as distress sale of assets, predatory loans or child labour WHO mentioned in the statement calling of the health and safety of all agri-food workers to be guaranteed with better incomes too as it would be critical to saving lives and protecting public health and food security.

“We must rethink the future of our environment and tackle climate change and environmental degradation with ambition and urgency. Only then can we protect the health, livelihoods, food security and nutrition of all people, and ensure that our ‘new normal’ is a better one,” WHO concluded.

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