An additional US$10 billion is urgently needed to prevent millions more people becoming food insecure as a result of COVID-19,according to a new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and Cornell University, as part of the Ceres2030: Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger project. Half ($5bn) of this must come from donor governments as aid, with the rest provided by developing countries themselves.

The analysis uses data from the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, which forecasts that COVID-19 could tip up to 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020 unless action is taken. Modelling conducted by Ceres2030 found that $10bn must be spent this year to address the hunger and nutrition impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable populations.

Carin Smaller, Director of Agriculture, Trade and Investment at IISD and co-Director of the Ceres2030 project, said: “The warning signs are coming left, right and centre. Without action now, decades of progress will be undone and the chance of meeting the UN target to end hunger by 2030 could be pushed out of reach. Governments must urgently increase spending on social protection programmes to get people the money and food they need to survive the crisis, alongside long-term investments to build more sustainable and resilient food systems.”

The main factor contributing to increased hunger is that the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn have left millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia without work, and unable to buy food. Addressing such complex challenges requires a systemic approach to food security through more and better investments in both rural development and social protection.

David Laborde, Senior Research Fellow at IFPRI and co-Director of the Ceres2030 project, said: “Even before COVID-19, global efforts to end hunger were falling far short of what was needed. The number of hungry people had been rising for five years in a row according to FAO. The pandemic has exacerbated an already-dire situation: governments need to act quickly to prevent disaster, and put the building blocks in place for a more secure future.”

Supply disruptions – such as problems transporting food to market, labour shortages due to restrictions on migrant workers or COVID-19 outbreaks in factories, and trade restrictions – are also contributing to a rise in hunger. These problems require cooperative, evidence-based policy making.

Jaron Porciello, Associate Director at Cornell University and co-Director of the Ceres2030 project, said: “Social protection is needed not just as an emergency response to COVID-19, but also as a long-term investment in people – boosting their productivity and ensuring they have the means to buy nutritious food, send children to school, and get the healthcare they need. Governments must ensure safety nets work effectively for everyone, particularly women, girls and other vulnerable groups. This means listening to those most at need and ensuring programmes are informed by good quality evidence and data.”

About Ceres2030: Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger – Ceres2030 is a cutting-edge research project on the public investments needed to end hunger sustainably, led by Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). It was set up to provide donor governments with the tools they need to increase the amount and effectiveness of their investments to end hunger sustainably, in line with the UN goal to end hunger by 2030 (SDG 2).

Methodology – The Ceres2030 economic model is a global computable general equilibrium (CGE) model built on economic databases. The price tag in this press release uses historical data from the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, published at the same time as this report, on the number of people who were hungry before the COVID-19 pandemic. The model also uses epidemiological data from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and parameters representing social distancing to simulate the specific effects of the pandemic on household food consumption via economic pathways. Households in the model cope – or don’t – by switching to cheaper foods and by reducing food consumption altogether. This means reducing consumption of micronutrient and protein rich foods like fresh produce, dairy, and animal proteins and substituting with staple foods like rice, maize, and wheat.  The estimated effects on food consumption are then used to estimate the cost of social protection programmes providing food or money that would be sufficient to maintain their previous food consumption profile to pre-COVID-19 levels. These costs are required on top of the funds already needed for those that were hungry before the COVID-19 pandemic (690 million people were hungry in 2019, according to the 2020 SOFI report.)