Food Security and COVID-19: Recognizing Women’s Leadership
“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” – this recognition was a central focus of the 1996 World Food Summit. Today, Covid-19 has compromised food security across the world. There has been an 82% increase in acute food insecurity compared to pre-Covid needs. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, food insecurity has steadily risen throughout 2020. An estimated 51.1 million people (and rising) are food insecure in this region.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in January 2020, food prices have risen at a much faster rate than the overall consumer price index across all regions of the world. Women face a higher risk of food insecurity if they cannot afford food, and if they cannot sustainably and affordably grow their own food. They face higher risks of malnutrition, poverty and harm.
More than half the world’s food producers and farmers are women. Any rise in food prices, coupled with dramatic job losses in the informal employment sector, higher home care duties and less opportunity for women to access civic and public spaces due to lockdown restrictions, raises serious concerns about the long-term gendered harms caused by Covid-19. As the World Bank found in a 45-country survey on food insecurity and Covid-19: “If farmers are experiencing acute hunger, they may also prioritise consuming seeds as food today over planting seeds for tomorrow, raising the threat of food shortages later on.”