Pandemic’s impact on Pacific food security surveyed

A child inspects tomatoes at SPREP's backyard food gardening programme. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule

RADIO NZ – 10:29 am on 26 August 2020

Benjamin Robinson-Drawbridge, RNZ Pacific Journalist benjamin.robinson@rnz.co.nz

Pacific households are being surveyed to find out how food security is being affected by the pandemic.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is contacting people by phone in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and plans to expand the survey to other countries.

Director of WFP’s Pacific Multi-Country Office Jo Pilgrim said the pandemic’s destruction of the tourism industry had left Pacific people vulnerable.

“Covid is having an impact on the livelihoods of people in the Pacific. WFP has started what we call mobile vulnerability analysis mapping on food security situations in Pacific countries.”

Pilgrim said questions were asked about access to food, ability to afford food and whether food was still available in local markets.

“We’ll make that information available to Pacific governments and their partners to help them make decisions about what needs to be done to address whatever situations this monitoring identifies.”

In Fiji, the WFP survey may identify what an alliance of NGO’s has called a growing humanitarian crisis among people formerly employed in the country’s beleaguered tourism sector.

Unsatisfied with the government’s response to pandemic induced poverty, the alliance has set up a foodbank to feed hungry children.

But with fewer cargo ships sailing in the Pacific and the rising price of food being shipped, even foodbanks could be affected by the pandemic.

“Schedules have been reduced, frequency of ships calling at Pacific countries has decreased and the prices are increasing,” Pilgrim said.

“But countries are prioritising shipping for essential services such as fuel and food. This is being monitored carefully.”

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