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The number of people estimated to be facing moderate to severe levels of food insecurity in the English-speaking Caribbean has risen by an alarming 46 per cent over the last six months. Nearly 4.1 million people or 57 per cent of the population, now face food insecurity, according to a recent survey conducted by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
While severe food insecurity in the region remained largely unchanged compared to February 2022, there has been a significant increase in households that have fallen into moderate levels of food insecurity. Overall, the number of food insecure people has increased by 1.3 million over the past six months. The deterioration has been attributed to rising costs for food and other commodities, as the ripple effect of the Ukraine conflict and a slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is felt throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nearly 6 per cent of people in the English-speaking Caribbean reported going an entire day without eating in the week leading up to the survey, which is a 1 per cent increase since February 2022. Another 36 per cent of respondents skipped meals or ate less than usual, and 32 per cent ate less preferred foods in the week following the survey. In February, these figures were at 30 and 25 per cent, respectively.
“We are seeing worrying trends in the region with people selling off their assets and using their savings to meet basic needs. This was unheard of in the region previously”, said Regis Chapman, Representative and Country Director WFP Caribbean Multi-Country Office. “These negative coping strategies are unsustainable, and we fear that these short-term measures will lead to a further increase in the number of people unable to meet their daily food requirements.”
The Caribbean region continues to be impacted by external factors that threaten livelihoods and people’s ability to meet their basic needs. On average, food inflation in the English and Dutch-speaking Caribbean has risen by 10.2 per cent across 20 countries as of March 2022. High energy prices are exacerbating the food price crisis. Ninety-seven per cent of people surveyed reported seeing higher prices for food items compared to 59 per cent in April 2020.
“For the first time in over two years, people’s inability to meet food and essential needs were top concerns, followed by unemployment,” said Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, Economic Integration, Innovation and Development, CARICOM Secretariat. “CARICOM recognises that further support is necessary to reduce the level of need in the region and establish systems which facilitate access to nutritious food for all. Leaders in the region are actively engaging with decision makers across all relevant sectors to identify solutions for increasing food production and reducing import dependency within the region to reduce the cost of food.”
The most recent survey results and an interactive dashboard are available to carry out a full comparison of data across all five rounds of the survey and the countries covered. The dashboard now has additional information on the impact of economic conditions on the farming and fishing sectors, livelihoods, markets, and food security.
CARICOM, WFP and other partners continue to work together to increase people’s resilience to shocks through stronger disaster management, social protection and food systems that are more effective, sustainable and responsive in meeting the needs of those most affected by crises. Social protection programmes and other government support have been scaled up throughout the Caribbean, helping offset the impacts of the crisis. Investments in agriculture are aimed at reducing the reliance on imports.
The survey has been made possible with the support of the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance. (Caribbean News Now)