TACOMA, Washington — Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Latin America was experiencing a period of both economic growth and fall. In parts of Latin America, the percentage of people facing food insecurity has been decreasing slowly in the last seven years, a sign of positive action. However, Venezuela, a country that has been struggling through a recession period since 2016, has created a region-wide diaspora, and now millions of Venezuelan migrants are facing serious financial and food insecurity problems amid the pandemic.
Venezuelan Migrants and Food Insecurity
The World Food Program estimates that two-thirds of the three million Venezuelan migrants currently residing in Ecuador, Columbia and Peru are facing extreme food insecurity due to loss of unemployment, significant income decrease and the COVID-19 pandemic. Latin America and the Caribbean are projected to face a 269% rise from 2019 of people facing food insecurity. However, Venezuelan migrants are the most vulnerable group because they are not covered under national security programs.
COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting food systems in Latin America, as millions of people are unemployed and unable to buy enough food. Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Alicia Bárcena, explains to U.N. News, “The major task we have ahead of us is to keep the health crisis from turning into a food crisis.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Aiding Food Security
One solution presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is an anti-hunger grant that can be given to people living in extreme poverty for six months. The estimated cost for this grant is $23.5 billion and it would provide support equivalent to around $50 per month. The efforts of this grant focus on providing households with the nutrition they need while food companies can continue to work and the country can restabilize with guaranteed reasonable prices of food.
The FAO states food insecurity in Latin America is an urgent issue and urges countries in the region to provide food to the most vulnerable members of their communities and expand their social protection programs while maintaining global trade and a running economy. The FAO also urges donor countries to continue providing humanitarian assistance to communities severely affected by food insecurity, especially in regions struggling with hunger prior to the global health crisis.
COVID-19 Affecting Food Insecurity in Latin America
Food insecurity in Latin America has increased rapidly due to the COVID-19 health crisis and is projected to cause severe damage to populations and communities who faced food deficiencies prior to the onset of the pandemic. However, a large number of countries in Latin America, while not yet facing serious food insecurity, have reached a critical point of food stress, as stated by the United Nation Development Program.
The UNDP’s strategy for alleviating the widespread problem of food insecurity in Latin America follows a plan to ensure the continuation of markets as well as the maintenance of local “short value chains.” These are the markets operating at a regional or community level that will be important in generating a stable, long term food supply. The last step in UNDP’s plan is to implement a comprehensive program to reopen family farming, which will, at the basic level, provide local and family food security.
Food insecurity in Latin America is a pressing issue, especially during the daunting COVID-19 health crisis. However, with systems in place to provide aid and maintain developing food markets, those facing severe food insecurity will have access to support and food in a time of need. Nations in Latin America and donor nations must continue to administer aid and must consider food insecurity in the region a priority.