October, 16, 2020
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) join hands in calling for action to improve the food systems to help people better withstand shocks including the Covid-19 pandemic and prevent increasing malnutrition in the country.
Covid-19 has made many of us rekindle our appreciation for something we often take for granted: food.
The recent spike of Covid-19 cases has highlighted the importance of strengthening our food systems, to ensure that safe, good quality and nutritious food makes its way from farm to table, even amid disruptions as unprecedented as the current Covid-19 crisis.
The socio-economic effects of the pandemic – particularly loss of jobs and reduced incomes –are heightening existing threats such as those related to climate change which the country is particularly vulnerable to. In Sri Lanka, an increase in the rates of malnutrition is a real risk.
“Simply producing more food is not enough; making agri-food systems sustainable, resilient and inclusive, and healthy diets accessible and affordable for everyone is paramount to building back better from Covid-19,” said Dr Xuebing Sun, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Our future food systems need to provide decent livelihoods for food system workers, while preserving natural resources and biodiversity and tackling challenges such as climate change,“ Dr. Sun reiterated.
“A diverse food supply is an essential part of the health and nutrition response to Covid-19 when people’s immune systems need to be robust,” says WFP Country Director, Brenda Barton. “The right nutrition at the right time can change lives and allow the people of Sri Lanka, especially children, to reach their full potential. A well nourished population is crucial to building a healthy and prosperous nation.”
The need for concerted action to improve agricultural production while enhancing global supply chains, preserving access to safe and nutritious food and ending food waste is captured in this year’s World Food Day theme: “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”. This World Food Day celebrated on 16 October, FAO and WFP are calling for sustainable investment in food systems to achieve healthy diets for all. Without massive improvements in the food supply chain, countries like Sri Lanka, are set to become increasingly vulnerable to financial volatility and climate shocks.
This World Food Day provides an opportunity to thank Sri Lanka’s food heroes – farmers and workers throughout the food supply chain who, even during the Covid-19 lockdown, continued to provide food to their communities and beyond.
In Sri Lanka, undernutrition rates have remained largely unchanged for over a decade. These stagnant rates of malnutrition -- which are particularly high among children -- clearly indicates the need to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen food systems and protect people's livelihoods.
No one organisation or person can achieve these goals alone; everyone has a role to play in ensuring nutritious food is available for all – from governments, private businesses to individuals.
By investing in policies and programmes, governments can help build safe conditions and decent incomes for smallholder farmers and food chain workers, and adopt measures that avoid economic disruption. Private sector companies, many of which have been severely strained by the pandemic, can have an enormous influence on how communities, economies and food systems respond to a range of challenges including climate change. Individuals too have a role to play – from limiting food waste, to supporting local producers, to being an activist, advocating for a transformation in our agri-food systems.
Now more than ever, there is a need for solidarity to help all people, especially the most vulnerable, to confront the crises facing our country through innovative solutions and strong partnerships.
This year’s World Food Day comes as FAO turns 75. FAO was founded on 16 October 1945 – some days before the United Nations itself - to further agricultural knowledge and nutritional wellbeing. Today FAO’s priorities include digital agriculture, innovation and greater partnership and collaboration in transforming food systems to provide enough nutritious food for a growing population.
World Food Day is also being celebrated a week after WFP was awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of its work to combat hunger and improve conditions for peace. This award reflects the theme for World Food Day 2020, by recognizing efforts which focus not only on providing food for today and tomorrow, but also on building resilience and equipping people with the means to thrive in days to come, even in the face of adversity.