Report: Pandemic, Ukraine affecting food security in the Caribbean
Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, the reverberations of the coronavirus continue to take toll on people’s livelihoods, income and food security in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean as food costs rise, hunger deepens and tourism, a major economic driver, continues to suffer.
“People are buying cheaper foods, purchasing in smaller quantities, drawing on savings and reducing other critical expenditures on health and education to make ends meet,” a newly released report by the United Nations World Food Program and the 15-member Caribbean Community known as Caricom concludes. “On top of these unsustainable measures, they report skipping meals, going to bed hungry and being worried about feeding their families.”
The Caribbean COVID-19 Food Security and Livelihoods Impact Survey is being released Tuesday.
It was launched soon after the start of the pandemic to gather data on people’s livelihoods, access to markets and food security and provide snapshots of these impacts over time. This latest installment is the fourth and respondents were surveyed from Jan. 25 to Feb. 8 of this year. The survey was circulated via social media, media outlets, SMS and emails.
The World Food Program’s multi-country office covers 22 nations and territories in the Caribbean. The survey was administered in each of the countries, but those with fewer than 100 responses were not included in detail in the report. Those whose surveys were are: the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. Haiti, which has its own WFP office, was not part of the survey, but economists, entrepreneurs and analysts taking part in a three-day International Finance Summit that began Monday in Port-au-Prince have been sounding the alarm on the country’s 25.3% inflation, economic collapse and record government deficit that last year exceeded $449.1 million.
Since the pandemic, governments in the English-speaking Caribbean have turned to a range of measures to support people affected by COVID-19’s downturn in the economy and to help promote recovery. In many cases, it has resulted in increasing national debt.
The report’s authors conclude that the ability to sustain this support is under threat, and requires innovative financing solutions to navigate the compounded impacts of the pandemic, the climate crisis, economic hardship, and most recently, reverberating global impacts of the war in Ukraine.
“The Caribbean is at a tipping point for food security. The continued economic impacts of COVID-19 risk widening existing inequalities, and supply chain disruptions will be compounded by the global reverberations of the Ukraine crisis,” the report said.
Food systems and food security, the survey found, must be a strategic recovery priority.
Among its recommendations, Caribbean governments need to renew their push on food security by, among other things, increasing investments in food systems, regional food production and trade, and developing and expanding initiatives to increase demand for local foods.