May 29, 2020
PORTLAND, OR -- The U.S. and other countries are beginning to think about what life might look like in a post-COVID world. The pandemic is by no means over, but many states and countries are beginning to reopen as case numbers decline and testing and contact tracing capabilities improve. At some point, the worst of the health crisis will pass, however, the devastating impact of this pandemic on places already teetering on the verge of, or already suffering from, food insecurity is just beginning. It will be devastating, plunging many vulnerable populations around the world into starvation, malnutrition, and despair, and calculating how many will need help and what countries will need it most urgently is overwhelming.
According to the Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNET), South Sudan, Yemen, and Nigeria are all facing imminent risk of starvation with more than 30 million people at risk. Guatemala, Honduras, Somalia, and Kenya are all anticipating an increase of 100 percent or more of their respective populations in hunger crisis relative to anticipated needs prior to the pandemic. FEWSNET calculates more than 100 million people will need immediate humanitarian assistance as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of the existing demand for food assistance.
Lack of access to markets, major supply chain disruptions, and lack of people to work the land are likely part of the reason for the increase in food insecurity. In light of these circumstances, it seems counterproductive to do anything other than rely on food donations, when food may not be readily available and/or inflation may be in effect in many of the countries most in need.
“U.S. government food assistance comes in many forms,” said Jesica Kincaid, USA Rice manager of international trade policy. “However, in this instance, we strongly believe that providing food is the answer and USA Rice has been vocal in support for additional food aid appropriations through COVID-19 relief legislation.”
Fortified foods that the U.S. can provide are designed to address not just hunger, but to solve prevalent concerns regarding malnutrition. Fortified rice is manufactured in large quantities and under the most rigorous food safety standards, providing bio-available, easily digestible, and highly palatable access to key nutrients critical for human development.
“We encourage the U.S. government and all implementing agencies, including the United Nations’ World Food Programme, to make full use of highly nutritious fortified rice to address the mass hunger and malnutrition that so many countries will face as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kincaid. “USA Rice is fully committed to providing both nutritious, milled U.S- origin rice as well as fortified rice to those global communities in need, through U.S. government feeding programs.”