Expert Speak Health Express
Published on Apr 06, 2020
Food security and the Corona Virus

As the COVID -19 cases continue to rise and every individual nation is struggling to ensure that its citizens are safe, we continue to see that all nations are grappling with some similar challenges where as some trends are unique ones depending on the specific regions. The biggest worry for us in the African nations is the constant impending sense of doom as we lack the capacity that most of the developed nations dealing with Corona deaths have and yet we see that even with their infrastructure and robust medical care system they too seem to be at a loss and almost overwhelmed with the current threat.

In Kenya for instance we have gradually started to see more cases. As of today, they stand at 42 right now, with only one death so far. The government is considering a nationwide lock down but they are unsure on how to go about feeding approximately 40% of the population that is unable to stock food for at least the 14 days needed for an effective lockdown. This is the population that works for a daily wage of about 2-3 USD a day, that is only enough to feed the family for a single day. A population that says, “We have survived cholera, malaria, lack of running regular water supply and living in unsanitary situations in our peri-urban slums and some rural  areas, we think you should just let us face the Corona virus because locking us in for just three days might result in most of our families dying of hunger.” A population that lacks running water to properly clean their hands as touted by the experts, and do not have extra income to purchase hand sanitizers as it is not a priority to them in comparison to food. A population that is provided with hand sanitizers by the  government, their areas and localities also sanitized by government authorities have resulted in coping mechanisms which means eating one main meal a day to get by in the face of dwindling jobs due to economic shut down as a result of the COVID- 19 impact worldwide.

Furthermore, while Corona was hitting the world the Locusts were also arriving en masse on our land, compounding the food insecurity challenges that most of our populations in the arid and semi-arid lands were already facing as a result of a myriad other changes brought by climate change. Most of these rural population that is grappling with erratic rainfalls and locusts’ invasion are needed to feed the towns that are in lockdown due to the Corona Virus. They need to have the capacity to both deal with the emerging threat of Corona Virus and locusts’ invasions while ensuring that they are secured with food and have bulk produce which can feed the population residing in the Urban areas.

As non-state actors we have to look for ways to complement the efforts made by the government while also looking for solutions that address the multifaceted nature of the challenges that nations are now facing especially those in rural areas. We have to let the government plan for the worst while we rally communities towards bottom up solutions that are literally hoping for the best and ensuring that even the most vulnerable among us will be able to have access to basic needs especially food and water. Along these lines, getting communities ready to face the Corona Virus lies in also building their immune systems and this can only be achieved by ensuring, that they are able to get a balanced diet with food that is readily available. So, the rallying call should be how will we go on as communities once all this is over? How can we support the inherent skills and resources that are within communities to ensure that we are also addressing challenges that existed before Corona virus and will most likely continue to exist once the cure is found? And how can we build the capacity of these communities using the limited resources we have? What indigenous knowledge is being aside in favor of science that could help in preparing communities for most of the challenges that we are and will face in future?

In the face of such complex problems the answers had always been in integrated solutions and multi-stakeholder approaches with the community at the center. The answer lies in organizations especially non state actors continuing to support communities while also integrating community awareness initiatives on combatting COVID -19 through its programs. Even as African nations and most under developed countries mull over the best way to feed majority of our populations that live hand to mouth in the face of massive job losses, we know when it comes down to it. We all just want access to basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and good health care, the sustainable way to go about it is to look for the inherent capacities within the populations that can contribute to various aspects of these universal needs. All said and done, we cannot eat money or vaccines, we will need food.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.




Mother teacher and activist. Through her various roles Caroline Dama strives to inspire the communities in her home country Kenya to take charge of their ...

Read More +