Liberia: Urgent Need To Strengthen Food Systems As Covid-19 Drives Up Numbers Of Hungry People Worldwide

World Food Day Media Event: (L-R): WFP’s Representative and Country Director, Ms. Karla Hershey; Minister of Agriculture, Hon Jeanine Cooper; and FAO’s Chief Technical Advisor / Officer-in-Charge, Mr. Jonathan Wesley Roberts.

Monrovia – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) joins its sister agencies in calling for global action to improve the systems that produce and distribute the food we eat, so that they can better withstand shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic that can spark alarming surges in the level of hunger in the world.

In many countries, the socio-economic effects of the pandemic – particularly loss of earnings and remittances – are heightening existing threats linked to conflict and climate change. The number of acutely hungry people in the world could increase by more than 100 million this year, according to WFP estimates. For particularly fragile countries, a slide towards famine is a real risk.

“‘The world produces enough food for everyone so it’s a problem not of scarcity but of access to nutritious and affordable food,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley,  “Smallholder farmers in developing nations need support so they can grow crops in a more sustainable way, then store and transport their produce to markets, and ultimately improve their own livelihoods. When food moves from the farm, along the supply chain and onto people’s plates in a fair and efficient way, then everyone benefits.”

WFP, which last week won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to fight hunger, has unparalleled experience in buying and distributing food. Every year, WFP increases the amount of food it procures locally from smallholder farmers, providing training in post-harvest storage and in how to access markets. The aim is to build dynamic food systems which contribute to community-based agricultural growth and the strengthening of national economies.

The need for concerted action to improve agricultural production while enhancing global supply chains and ending food waste is reflected in this year’s World Food Day theme: “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”.  The three Rome-based agencies – WFP, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – are calling for sustainable investment in food systems to achieve healthy diets for all. Without massive improvements in the food supply chain, many fragile nations are set to become increasingly vulnerable to financial volatility and climate shocks.

No one government or organization can achieve these goals alone. More than ever, there is a need for global solidarity to help all people, and especially the most vulnerable, to confront the crises facing the planet – multiple conflicts, climate change and COVID-19.

WFP in Liberia

In Liberia, WFP continues to engage with the Government of Liberia in its development efforts as expressed under the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) on a path towards reaching Zero Hunger by 2030. WFP supports the Government-led COVID-19 Household Food Support Programme (COHFSP) that started in late May, by undertaking targeted food distribution to 2.5 million vulnerable and food insecure people as well as frontline workers nationwide. In April and May, as part of its COVID-19 emergency response programme, WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Education provided take-home dry rations to over 90,000 girls and boys for use by their entire households as a way of averting child hunger and encouraging the children to continue studying their lessons at home.

WFP is jointly working with the Government of Liberia and sister UN agencies including FAO, ILO, UN WOMEN and UNDP on the implementation of two development-related programmes, the Rural Women Economic Empowerment (RWEE) and the Peacebuilding Fund projects that seek to enhance peace and community-driven growth for vulnerable rural youth and women.

Meanwhile, WFP Country Director, Ms. Karla Hershey, said: “On this occasion of World Food Day, WFP reassures the Government and people of Liberia that we remain unbending in efforts to assist the most vulnerable members of society to access the nutritious food they need to remain healthy and participate in the development of their nation and communities. Only by sustaining peace can we reach food security and stability. Only together can we really reach Zero Hunger by 2030, and this could not be more relevant than in Liberia.”

Another vital element in improving food systems is stopping food waste.   WFP’s #StopTheWaste 2020 campaign highlights simple steps which everyone can take to prevent the huge amounts of food which are wasted each day.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.