The Impact of
Coronavirus
Image depicting The Impact of Coronavirus
Photo: WFP/Marcelle Rodriguez
COVID-19 is threatening the world’s most vulnerable people
Photo: WFP/Marcelle Rodriguez
hunger amid a pandemic

Coronavirus continues to spread, requiring an unprecedented response from the humanitarian community. The situation is extremely precarious for people living in countries plagued by poverty, armed conflict, and whose health systems are weak or almost non-existent.

That’s why WFP is working tirelessly to ensure the world’s most vulnerable people continue to receive nutritious food as they face the added challenges posed by the pandemic.

3B

people lack access to hand-washing facilities

12M

children no longer receiving WFP school meals due to closures

65M

refugees and IDPs live in close-quarters encampments

How COVID-19 Threatens Global Food Security

Healthcare

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” says World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. That's because COVID-19 is highly risky to people living in countries with poor healthcare infrastructure. Without adequate equipment, healthcare professionals, or medical facilities to treat the disease, an outbreak could be even more deadly.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Risks it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf

Social Safety Nets

Economic and nutritional safety net systems are critical lifelines for vulnerable people affected by COVID-19. However, many developing countries lack these kinds of programs, which will make it even harder for people to feed themselves in the event of an outbreak. In fact, less than 20 percent of people living in low-income countries have access to social protections of any kind. Even fewer have access to food-based safety nets.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Risks it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli

Malnourishment

COVID-19 has turned out to be especially deadly for people who are elderly or whose health is already compromised, so it may be especially lethal for those who are already suffering from extreme hunger. Good nutrition is foundational to good health, and people who are malnourished are less capable of fighting off disease. For example, Africa’s 1.2 billion people face the highest percentage of undernourishment on the planet: more than 20 percent of the population. An outbreak of coronavirus there could be devastating.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Risks it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

Supply Disruptions

Border closures, limited staff, and grounded transportation could threaten food supply by causing breaks in food supply chains, shortages or price spikes. In many developing countries, millions of families already spend more than half of their income on food in normal circumstances, so any increase in the cost of food could be devastating.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Risks it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/REIN SKULLERUD

Poverty

Economic decline, poverty and food insecurity often accompany one another. As we’ve already seen, COVID-19 is riling global markets, and there are fears it could cause the global economy to slow down or fall into a recession. For the millions of people who are already barely scraping by, economic upheaval could force them deeper into poverty and hunger.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Risks it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/Mohammed Awadh

School Children

Nearly 1.6 billion children in 188 countries (91% of students), are now out of school due to COVID-19. This means more than 12 million children are no longer receiving WFP school meals. For many, it was their only meal of the day, and without it they're at risk of becoming severely malnourished. WFP is doing everything it can to find alternatives including take-home rations and home delivery.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Threats it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/Mackenzie Rollins

Refugees & IDPs

COVID-19 is highly risky to refugees and internally displaced populations, many of whom live in crowded, makeshift camps. These families live very close to one another and lack adequate medical facilities to treat the disease. An outbreak within a camp could undermine years of progress that WFP has made as it's forced to put livelihood and resilience-building projects on hold.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Threats it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

Family Farmers

Over 50% of the world’s hungry people are small family farmers with fields of five acres or less. If they aren’t able to plant or harvest their crops because they’re sick, they won’t have enough food to feed themselves or get through the lean season.

Source: COVID-19 and the 5 Major Threats it Poses to Global Food Security Photo: Courtesy of Rick Steves

WFP is tackling these challenges head-on with a three-pronged approach and responding in real time to changing needs on the ground.

Square photograph of 1. Sustaining and scaling up Detailed photograph of 1. Sustaining and scaling up
Photo: WFP/Saikat Mojumder

1. Sustaining and scaling up

WFP's #1 priority is to continue serving nearly 90 million people this year in more than 80 countries. Wherever possible, it will aim to scale up its existing operations, food distributions and livelihood programs.

Detailed photograph of 2. Supporting the global response
Photo: WFP/Fares Khoailed

2. Supporting the global response

WFP is continuing to oversee logistics for the entire UN and global humanitarian community. This includes air, sea and land transportation, world-wide supply chains and warehouses, and MEDEVAC services for health workers.

Detailed photograph of 3. monitoring & supplying Data

3. monitoring & supplying Data

On behalf of the international community, WFP is providing real-time data tracking on changes in food availability, health care access and economies in vulnerable countries. This data is critical in rolling out the right solutions at the right time.

WFP's response to COVID-19

The United Nations World Food Programme is doing everything it can to make sure it can feed families in need and respond immediately to changes on the ground.

Photo: WFP/Guido Dingemans
Prepositioning Food

Having food in place before a disaster strikes is essential, so WFP is working now to pre-position stocks of food in vulnerable communities to ensure their supply isn’t interrupted. This food would be readily available even if trade was restricted, movement was halted, or in case of social unrest.

Photo: WFP/Alexis Masciarelli
Global Logistics

WFP is overseeing the delivery of critical supplies for all  United Nations agencies as they respond to the pandemic. This includes all air, sea and land transportation. For example, its “last-mile” networks are helping to deliver medicines across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Photo: WFP/Francisco Garrido
Medical Equipment

WFP is delivering lifesaving medical equipment to hospitals in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. It is also providing a two-month supply of masks, gloves and coverall gowns for more than 2,000 staff and volunteers in Iran, one of the countries hit hardest by the virus.

Photo: WFP/Marwa Awad
Emergency Food

WFP has provided immediate food assistance to people in isolation and is working closely with partners to ensure these people have access to nutritious foods. WFP will also continue to provide food and cash to 31,000 Afghan and Iraqi refugees living in settlements across the country.

The Latest COVID-19 News & Stories

Photo: WFP/Amin Roshan Iranian Refugees Volunteer to Produce Masks for COVID-19 Efforts

Iran has been one of the countries hit hardest by COVID-19. In that context, 170 refugees have come forward to give back to their community.

Read more +
Photo: WFP/Sebastien Rieussec New Digital Map Shows Terrible Impact of COVID-19 on School Meals Around the World

As well as displaying global totals, the map shows how many children are affected in each country, with real-time data indicating both the scale of the challenges and the need for solutions.

Read more +
Photo: WFP/Marcelle Rodriguez In Photos: A Look Inside WFP's Global Coronavirus Response

During this unprecedented time, it's vital that WFP maintains its food assistance that offers a lifeline to millions. See how WFP is responding during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Read more +
Photo: WFP/Saikat Mojumder COVID-19 and the 5 Major Threats it Poses to Global Food Security

Less than 20 percent of people living in low-income countries have access to social protections of any kind, and even fewer have access to food-based safety nets.

Read more +
Photo: WFP/Mohammed Awadh COVID-19 Outbreak: How WFP Is Preparing to Help Families

A statement from WFP USA about its response to Coronavirus, which is crossing borders and threatening populations that are already vulnerable and hungry.

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Photo: WFP/Charles Fromm The Economic Impact of Coronavirus Could Worsen Food Security for the World's Hungry People

“In some contexts, the economic consequences of this disease could end up hurting more people than the disease itself,” says WFP’s Chief Economist.

Read more +
COVID-19 Cases Map

For real-time data on the number and location of coronavirus cases, visit John’s Hopkins' interactive map.

Travel Restrictions

For real-time data on border closures and travel restrictions, visit the United Nations World Food Program interactive map.

Photo: WFP/Bikkil Sthapit

For the first time in human history, there is a threat that every person on the planet is facing. Now is the time for us to come together as a global community and do everything we can to protect each other.

At this difficult and uncertain time, we are reaffirming our core belief: No one should die of something as preventable as hunger.

While COVID-19 may add new challenges to our work, it will never change that commitment. That’s why, right now, in places like Yemen, South Sudan and Syria, WFP’s lifesaving work continues.

We can’t afford not to do our job, no matter what virus is knocking at our door.

we need you more than ever
WFP's costs are rising because of the virus
We must preposition food closer to those who need it
and set up more food distribution points to avoid large gatherings
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