The United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has sounded the alarm over the possibility of worldwide “mega-famines.” Dubbed as “double pandemic,” the UN body signaled that a “hunger pandemic” might come after the health pandemic brought by COVID-19 if governments and important actors will not take action for food security, leaving more than 900 million people in chronic hunger.
Earlier, international movement of grassroots group People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty (PCFS) mirrors UN-WFP’s appeal to governments in addressing the looming food crisis. The coalition said that the current global health crisis might transform into a hunger crisis unless a radical change in policies including a guarantee to the people’s right to food and prioritizing food sovereignty will be enacted.
The coalition, in a statement, said that “the signs are clear that food security amid the global pandemic is a ticking time bomb if not addressed with strong resolve to uphold the right to food and peoples’ welfare. It’s time to put local, farmer-led, and ecologically sound farming at the center of agriculture policies for a just, sustainable, and equitable food system.” The coalition has also drafted medium-term policy recommendations to ensure the people’s right to food amid the global COVID-19 pandemic. UN estimates that Covid 19 infections are expected to peak in the world’s poorest countries in the next three to six months.
The UN-WFP has recently included the Philippines in its list of vulnerable countries, along with Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe. In the 2019 Global Hunger Index, the Philippines placed 70th out of 117 qualifying countries, with a mark of a “serious” hunger level. This is greatly magnified by the pandemic and the lockdowns implemented across the country.
MASIPAG echoes UN-WFP and PCFS’ concerns on the food insecurity and looming famine over the Philippines. In a statement, MASIPAG expressed concern on the widespread hunger among Filipinos even before the impacts of the Covid 19 pandemic.
“The Covid 19 pandemic has exposed the problems on the current system of agriculture, wherein food is being treated as a commodity and not as a basic human right of the people. To date, millions of Filipinos cannot afford to buy food due to low or no incomes. This is further aggravated by problems on supply which is now affecting food security, coupled with increasing prices of products” said Cristino Panerio, MASIPAG National Coordinator.
The farmer-scientist network proposed a 6-point agenda to combat food insecurity amid the threat of COVID-19. One of the salient points of the agenda is crafting policies that put farmers in the center of food security and, in effect, in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19.
“To lessen vulnerabilities of the people suffering from hunger – we need to immediately act and address problems on food insecurity. Our government needs to recognize farmers’ role in food production. Policies should reflect this, such as banking on agroecology and policies strengthening self-sufficiency and self-reliance” added Panerio.
MASIPAG’s 6-point agenda includes 1) Implementing community health protocols; 2) Giving fair and just economic relief and agricultural aid; 3) Stop anti-farmer policies; 4) Enacting farmer-centered programs and resource-generation; 5) Empowering local markets; and, 6) Institutionalizing Agroecology for self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
“The threat of widespread famine is very real, and if we do not act now, many of our citizens will surely face the deadly consequences,” said Panerio.