SDG2 Advocacy Hub Update: COVID-19 and a Critical Moment for Global Food Security

August 26, 2020

Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, reflects on moments and opportunities to accelerate SDG2 progress in the coming months as we build back better from COVID-19. 

COVID-19 has drastically changed the SDG2 landscape, compounding existing problems of rising hunger and food security, and insufficient progress on tackling all forms of malnutrition. Moreover, UN Secretary General Antonio Gueterres has warned that the social and economic crisis triggered by the pandemic could cause a global food emergency, potentially erasing decades of progress on SDG2. 

While we have sufficient food stocks at the minute, lockdown measures have prevented farmers from reaching their fields and delayed planting seasons. Coupled with the desert locust invasions that are destroying crops across East Africa and migrating as far as Pakistan as well as a second outbreak in South America, the promise of SDG2 and ensuring good food for all by 2030 is pushed further out of reach. 

Reports have already started to estimate the long-term impacts COVID-19 will have on food systems and beyond, as well as identify the investments needed to protect the most vulnerable, scale cost-effective interventions and get SDG2 back on track. I will only mention a few but a longer list can be found here

The annual stocktake report 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2020) for the first time estimates the number of people unable to afford a healthy diet globally: a staggering 3 billion people. Updated country balance sheets resulted in an overall downward shift in hunger numbers with an estimated 690 million people hungry in 2019. However, the trend is no less worrying: global hunger has been on the rise since 2014. SOFI 2020 predicts that COVID-19 will add up to 132 million people to the 2020 undernutrition estimates. 

Drawing on SOFI 2020 estimates, Ceres2030 researchers calculate that an additional USD$10 billion is needed to prevent millions of people from becoming food insecure due to the pandemic.  Brief “What would it cost to avert the COVID-19 hunger crisis?” utilises economic modelling to estimate the additional public investment required – as donor share and government investment – and points to social protection programmes as one key investment as we build back better. 

An additional 6.7 million children under the age of five could suffer from wasting in 2020 due to COVID-19 finds new analysis “Impacts of COVID-19 on child malnutrition and nutrition-related mortality”. This rise is attributed to the economic, food and health system disruptions linked to COVID-19 that will exacerbate malnutrition in all its forms. In response, four heads of UN agencies issued a call for action outlining five immediate actions to safeguard children’s right to nutrition

Looking forward, there are multiple SDG2 advocacy opportunities to keep an eye on – find a few below. 

Good Food For All: Working closely with partners from civil society, UN agencies and the private sector, the SDG2 Advocacy Hub has developed Good Food For All, a new narrative reframing how we talk about SDG2 to complement Zero Hunger. Shifting from a technical discussion to a focus on food, Good Food For All speaks to the breadth of Goal 2 – from biodiversity to malnutrition in all its forms to sustainable agriculture – and a wider food experience. Through its eight pillars, the narrative builds bridges to other conversations: gender equality, climate action, conflict etc. ‘For All’ places equity at the centre of the conversation, creating an opportunity for us to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic with a concerted way of speaking that accelerates SDG2 action. Here are a few ways to get involved in Good Food For All. 

AGRF Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent: From 8 – 11 September, the virtual AGRF Summit will gather delegates under the theme “Feed the Cities, Grow the Continent – Leveraging Urban Food Markets to Achieve Sustainable Food Systems in Africa.” The theme is a call to action to rethink our food systems to deliver resilient, better nourished, and more prosperous outcomes for all. 

GAFSP Replenishment Kick Off: On 8 October, the German Government will host the Replenishment Kick Off for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP), a fund supporting the development of agriculture and food systems in poor countries. 

Launch of Ceres2030:  On 13 October, the Ceres2030 research team will publish new analysis on the total additional spending needed to reach SDG2. Focused on three dimensions of SDG2 (ending hunger, ensuring agricultural sustainability and doubling small-scale producer productivity), the Ceres2030 cost model will identify how this additional investment should be invested across countries and agricultural interventions. 

As we emerge from COVID-19 and redouble efforts to deliver SDG2 by 2030, we need greater collaboration across agriculture, nutrition, food and beyond. Sign up to the SDG2 Advocacy Hub to stay up to date with the latest news, reports and events across the SDG2 space as well as share your ongoing work. Get involved in Good Food For All, starting with a briefing call on 2 September that will outline how the new narrative can help support your advocacy.