Covid-19 in South Asia

Biggest ever blow to livelihood

1.7bn people affected

Staff Correspondent

7 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Speakers at a programme said the Covid-19 pandemic in South Asia has triggered the largest disruption to everyday life in human history, affecting over 1.7 billion people.

The disruptions to supply chains, lack of access to health and nutrition services, and overwhelmed social protection system is leading to increased food and nutrition insecurity in the region, they said.

They were addressing the virtual event on Monday to present the highlights of the 2020 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) in the South Asian context. The programme was co-organized by IFPRI South Asia, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS).

At the function, policymakers and leaders shared their perspectives in light of the Covid-19’s impacts on food system.

The coronavirus crisis has accelerated the importance to reshape the food systems making them more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient.

“Food systems provide opportunities to improve food and nutrition security, generate income, and drive inclusive economic growth, but even in prosperous times too many people are excluded from fully participating in them and securing these benefits,” said Johan Swinnen, director general of IFPRI.

The report recommends three key policy levers which will be critical in making the food system transformation inclusive and sustainable. They include reforming agricultural input subsidies and price supports, improving the targeting of social protection programmes and building effective institutions for governing the emerging food system. Reforming some of the age-old programmes on agricultural subsidy and price policies could free up public funds, to invest in fostering more inclusive, equitable, and gender- and nutrition-sensitive food systems.

In South Asia, social safety net programmes can be effective platforms for making food systems inclusive.

 “IFPRI-WFP’s Transfer Modality Research Initiative in Bangladesh found that providing young mothers cash transfers combined with nutrition behavior change communication reduced child stunting by three times the national average decline. This is substantial evidence on the potential of social transfers to enhance nutrition,” said Akhter Ahmed, senior research fellow and country representative of IFPRI-Bangladesh.