September 25, 2020

'Hope in a Time of Pandemic' Issue Spotlight #6 -Food and Water

COVID-19 has revealed innumerable inequalities and deeply rooted systemic injustices in areas such as physical and mental health, mobility, political institutions, and housing. Two vulnerable areas most vital to the survival of people and Earth are the supply of food and water. Stories featured in Mercy Global Action’s COVID-19 Response Task Force report ‘Hope in a Time of Pandemic – Responding to COVID-19 through a Mercy Lens’ reveal both the challenges and resilience of communities experiencing water shortages and food insecurity during the Pandemic.

What has been revealed in terms of food and water?

  • Collapse of food production and supply systems has affected food security globally

COVID-19 has threatened the food security and nutrition of many families and communities across the globe. As families have lost their economic livelihoods, they are unable to support themselves and their children resulting in lack of access to essential needs and assistance. While school closures have been put in place as mitigation measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, many children do not have access to health programs, school meals and other supports that were previously accessible to them.

One Mercy Partner from Peru stated,

“The pandemic has affected families’ economic income because they work independently. It is worse for the families with children but they are somehow surviving on their farms. Food availability is limited, especially the purchasing of oil, rice, sugar etc.’’ (Mercy Partner, Peru)

Another account from a Mercy Sister in Kenya accounts,

Many are hungry. 90 percent of slum dwellers lost their casual work on the 16th March and those working in transport, hotel, restaurant, bars, house-work, small private schools were soon let go without pay. Within a few days they were hungry. The elders of the village asked what could be done. We had bought food worth 10,000 euro to feed the 6,000 students’ lunch just before the schools closed. We decided to distribute this food stock to the hungry. We launched an appeal for immune- boosting food packs containing soap and toilet paper as well as food, costing ten euro each for those coming to the clinic suffering from signs of malnutrition. Some Kenyans, seeing the desperation of the people, came to our aid with various food donations”

On September 29th the United Nations will commemorate the first ever International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste. Sisters, Associates and Partners in Mercy have mobilized to ensure that families and children receive proper nutrition in the face of food insecurity. They have designated food and nutrition as essential, while providing the necessary assistance to vulnerable groups.

  • Safe drinking water and adequate sanitation services are essential to combating COVID-19 and the spread of infection

While communities are being told to wash their hands to combat the spread of infection, COVID-19 has highlighted the inequitable access and availability of safe water and sanitation. Many individuals have experienced water inaccessibility as a result of loss of their economic livelihoods. And yet, many women and girls across the globe bear the burden with collection of water in their communities, placing them at greater risk of infection, risking “stay at home” orders and gender based violence due to lack of adequate water infrastructure. Access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial for protection against COVID-19, achieving gender equality, and reducing violence against women.

‘Hope in a Time of Pandemic’ highlights the findings of a recent report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) detailing that approximately 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services and 3 billion lack basic hand washing facilities. We also must keep in mind those in indigenous communities, those experiencing homelessness, those in aged-care facilities, migrants and refugees who do not have access to clean water and sanitation. Proper access to adequate water and sanitation services are not only lacking in households, but in education and healthcare facilities.

What are we being called to?

  • Advocate for the Right to Food, by bolstering agricultural and food systems with long-term sustainability goals. The Mercy World has and will continue to encourage programs that ensure access to sufficient and nutritious food during the pandemic.
  • Promote the Human Right to Water and Sanitation (HRWS) in order to change systemic injustices that prevent water being accessible to all. Existing injustices include: the privatization of water, poor water governance, unsustainable agricultural practices and gender inequality.
  • Spread the word across your own social media platforms by sharing ‘Hope in a Time of Pandemic’ and MIA Global Action’s infographic on COVID-19 Spotlight on Food and Water on social media. Please engage with us on Twitter @MIAGlobalAction and @MercyWorldwide.

Learn More

Messages to: Colleen Cloonan - Leadership Advocacy MIA-MGA

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