Famine could be galloping toward millions of people in the developing world and governments must act to keep the food flowing.
If food exports from developed countries like Canada slow or cease at the same time that COVID-19 lockdowns are occurring in poor countries, food production and the ability for people to buy food could be devastated, warns the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“This global health crisis is quickly turning into a global food crisis,” said Jim Cornelius, the Foodgrains Bank’s executive director, during an online news conference on food aid, which involved people from Canada, Lebanon and Zimbabwe.
“Exporting countries are being urged not to put restrictions or bans on the supply of food across borders.”
Poor nations face more food scarcity perils than wealthier nations for a host of reasons. The most dramatic immediate impact of the coronavirus has been the sudden unemployment of millions of the poorest workers.
Suddenly many can’t afford to buy food.
In richer nations, public welfare systems offer safety nets that save most from deep poverty, but systems are more primitive in many developing nations.
And within developing countries, agriculture is labour-intensive, but millions of farm workers have been affected by lockdowns. Both food production and the ability for people to buy food need to be protected, Cornelius said.
It’s vital for food exporters to keep providing supplies to food-poor places, Cornelius said, urging Canadians to let their politicians know that they support food exports.
“We are all genuinely in this crisis together,” he said.
Nadia Khouri underlined the connection between work, money and hunger. She oversees a Lebanese non-profit organization that helps refugees and other very poor people around Beirut and she said the sudden surge of unemployment has created great fear.
“Within the first few days we sensed a deep panic among the community,” Khouri said.
“People did not know where their next meal would come from.”
Food prices have surged since last year, already pressuring poor families, but the collapse in income is making food unobtainable for some.
“The situation on the ground is very dire,” said Khouri.
“Families can’t last more than a few more weeks like this.”
The Foodgrains Bank is hoping all the planned projects in farm country across Canada go forward as planned this summer, and that people continue to donate to the charity, which has received high praise for having low overhead costs for the aid it provides.
The charitable organization has already approved $10 million in hunger relief funding in early April and plans more.
Musu encouraged people to urge their governments to continue supporting food exports, to learn more about the complexity of hunger in poor nations, and to support the Foodgrains Bank.
“Give, pray and learn,” said Taylor-Lewis.”