World Food Program on the corona crisis

The coronavirus also affects the work of the World Food Programme: Expert Amer Daoudi talks on the starving, Covid-19 and crisis logistics with Tagesspiegel-Author Christian Böhme.

Mr Daoudi, what does the pandemic mean for those who are starving?

Global containment measures will have a direct impact on those most in need. We expect food supplies to become scarcer, which will result in rising prices. This means that poor people will be able to buy less food. Countries with weak economic and social systems will suffer most. We will especially help those with limited access to hygiene and sanitation, health services and information. This is very important. Because when an infectious disease like Covid-19 breaks out, hunger and malnutrition can increase dramatically, leading to even higher mortality rates. Pregnant women, infants, chronically ill and elderly people often have weakened immune systems and are particularly susceptible to life-threatening infections.

What do people urgently need?

Zinc and vitamin A, which play an important role in the functioning of the immune system. People who are already suffering from an infection need a particularly large amount of these micronutrients to fight the infection and replenish the body’s reserves.

Your organisation wants to ensure the food security of the people. How is that possible under the current conditions?

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) must continue to provide vital aid to 87 million people around the world. We want to continue our ongoing operations at full speed – especially in countries where the pandemic could break the supply chains. We now need to secure food supplies for three months. WFP needs an estimated US$1.9 billion to buy food quickly and to store supplies in particularly vulnerable places. Incidentally, Germany is our second largest donor, and you couldn’t ask for a better partner!

How can supply chains be maintained in pandemic times?

Commercial and humanitarian supply chains are particularly affected by the closure of borders, the interruption of the movement of goods, merchandise and people due to cancelled flights and shipping. But quarantine periods and export restrictions as well as lack of containers, equipment and storage space are also having an impact. WFP monitors these disruptions worldwide and assesses the possible consequences for its own supply chain. For example, we work with local authorities to exempt humanitarian goods from restrictions wherever possible. At the same time, we look at alternative logistics routes. And WFP works closely with governments to help them maintain commercial supply chains and thus stabilise domestic markets. Not to mention that the scope of our work goes far beyond food aid.

In what way?

For example, we work closely with the World Health Organization (WHO), helping them to plan and logistics humanitarian and health aid. WFP also works with key international partners to ensure that there are no gaps in medical care. Therefore, our supply chain experts were sent to the WHO in Geneva. On their behalf we deliver medical supplies and protective equipment to 67 countries.

The world is becoming more and more closed off. That’s not likely to change anytime soon. What does this mean for humanitarian aid?

There is no question: the pandemic is having a global impact on the health sector, the global economy, supply chains and humanitarian crises. It is still unclear what the concrete consequences will be for the transport of aid and personnel. We are currently trying to move everything that is necessary to areas that may soon be affected by Covid-19. To do this, relief supplies must be stored at strategically important locations worldwide. Our goal is to maintain emergency supplies at all costs.

As Director, Amer Daoudi heads the relief operations of the World Food Programme (WFP) and is responsible for logistics, supply chains and emergency relief.

This article was published on tagesspiegel.de