In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. It has caused setbacks to development, particularly in the poorest countries and in the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities – including Somaliland, South Sudan and Sudan. This exacerbates the existing situation of poverty and hunger. According to the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2020), almost 690 million people did not have enough to eat in 2019. The report continues to signal that significant challenges remain in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms, as a result of conflict and climate change.
In the first few months of the global pandemic, the implementation of FNS-REPRO was affected. This was mainly due to international and local travel restrictions which affected staff travel to project areas, government bans on public gatherings which affected important activities such as workshops, conflict resolution forums and capacity development training, and the slowdown of international trade and transportation, which slowed down procurement and delivery processes.
To address this, FAO implemented a range of measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on FNS-REPRO, including:
- Further strengthening the collaboration and partnerships with the government (ministries and local administration), national research organizations (universities and research centers) and national NGOs. This collaboration guarantees continuation of activities as local actors have better access and presence in the field, building on strong relationships with the communities in target sites to increase the effectiveness despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Enhanced coordination with FAO field-based officers for joint planning and implementation. Where necessary, field officers were trained to take over certain roles and responsibilities on behalf of country-office staff.
- Full adherence to government, WHO and FAO guidelines and regulations on COVID-19, to ensure that FNS-REPRO activities do not lead to a further spread of the disease, and minimize disruption of planned activities.
- Integrate awareness creation and advocacy on COVID-19 in the project activities. This meant having smaller groups in training and providing personal protective equipment and sanitization facilities for all during trainings.
- Maximizing the use of web-based communications for conducting virtual trainings or other events.
- Preparation and obtaining technical clearances for inputs and equipment, for advance consolidated procurement and delivery.
Although the governments of Sudan, South Sudan and Somaliland eased some of the restrictions around August and September 2020, others are still in place, and international travel continues to be a challenge.
In the near future, FAO will therefore continue to implement FNS-REPRO in a “COVID-19-smart” way, with as much field presence as possible taking into account the necessary mitigation measures.