SOURCE: CMC – The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says that the climate crisis poses a severe threat to food security in the Caribbean, as vulnerable communities — a vast majority of whom rely on agriculture, fishing and livestock, who contribute the least to the climate crisis — bear the brunt of the impacts with limited means to cushion the blow.
“The world faces an exponential increase in hunger fuelled by the climate crisis, if urgent global action to help communities adapt to climatic shocks and stresses is ignored,” warned WFP on Friday ahead of World Food Day on Saturday.
“The climate crisis has the potential to overwhelm humanity,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “The climate crisis is fuelling a food crisis.”
“The world is not prepared for the unprecedented rise in hunger we will see if we do not invest in programs that help vulnerable communities adapt and build resilience to our changing climate,” he added.
WFP said that, in the last 70 years, 324 disasters impacted the region.
In 2017, it said Dominica lost 200 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) as a result of Hurricane Maria, stating that the agriculture sector, which employed 25 per cent of the population, was wiped out.
WFP said that flooding in Trinidad in 2018 left farmers with losses of equipment and crops.
“The annual Atlantic hurricane season from June to November is a period of high anxiety for people throughout the Caribbean, as storms put at risk lives, livelihoods, personal property, agricultural production, and trade and imports with the destruction of logistics infrastructure, all of which can lead to increased food insecurity,” WFP said.
“Climate change is expected to intensify the severity of natural hazards in the Caribbean in the years to come,” it added. “The result will be a further reversing of significant development gains, paralysing national response capacities, and reducing people’s access to food. Rising sea levels threaten the very existence of the Caribbean.
Building on this year’s theme for World Food Day, “Our actions are our future — better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life,” WFP has called on world leaders to recognise the close link between hunger and the climate crisis, and is urging them to redouble their efforts to address the changing climate as focus shifts to the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26).
“While the Caribbean as a region has contributed very little to the causes of the climate crisis, these same countries and territories are some of the most severely impacted,” said Regis Chapman, country director and representative of the WFP Caribbean Multi-Country Office.
“The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 have now exacerbated the situation in the region with significant increases in food insecurity because of job and income loss and rising food prices,” he added. “Greater support is urgently needed for Caribbean SIDS (Small Island Developing States) to strengthen their resilience to the climate crisis.”
Chapman said that, across the Caribbean, regional institutions, national governments and civil society will be implementing a number of activities that highlight the importance of agriculture, food security and healthy consumption.
He said the WFP Caribbean Multi Country Office supports efforts to strengthen the resiliency of food systems and people in the region to the threats of the climate crisis.
In his message marking World Food Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the day is “not only a reminder of the importance of what we eat to everyone on the planet, but also a call to action to achieve food security around the world”.
Guterres pointed out that, currently, almost 40 per cent of humanity, some three billion people, can’t afford to eat healthily.
And as hunger, undernourishment, and obesity are on the rise, the economic impacts of COVID-19 “have made a bad situation even worse”, he said, noting that the pandemic has left an additional 140 million people “unable to access the food they need”.
“It is putting historic pressure on our natural resources, climate and natural environment — and costing us trillions of dollars a year”, warned the UN chief.
Referring to this year’s theme that the power to change is in “our hands”, he spelled out that “our actions are our future”.
Last month, the world took part in the landmark UN Food Systems Summit, which set the stage to transform food systems everywhere to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
The UN chief recalled that, during the summit, “countries made bold commitments” to make healthy diets more affordable and accessible and to make food systems “more efficient, resilient and sustainable at every step”.
“We can all change how we consume food, and make healthier choices — for ourselves, and our planet,” said the secretary-general. “In our food systems, there is hope.”
“On this World Food Day, join us as we commit to take transformative action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals through food systems that deliver better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for every person,” Guterres added.