A survey of more than 30,000 households in developing countries shows increased food insecurity
COVID-19 has dramatically changed life in every corner of the world. The deadly contagion has prompted lockdowns and various degrees of social distancing, causing much of public life to grind to a halt. All nations have felt some impact in many different ways. In terms of economic effects, the U.S. has seen record unemployment rates. But people living in low- and middle-income countries have been hit especially hard by the COVID downturn—to the point that nearly half of them may now face some level of food insecurity—according to a study published on Friday in Science Advances.
As the accelerating spread of COVID triggered the first global wave of lockdowns and social distancing measures last spring, it quickly became clear this would be an economic crisis as well as a public health one, says Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, a professor of economics at Yale University and a co-author of the study. Mobarak and an international group of colleagues quickly mobilized to investigate how the pandemic was affecting livelihoods in low- and middle-income countries—where a lack of broad social safety nets often makes people especially vulnerable to the effects of a decline in economic activity.
Between April and June last year the team conducted 16 phone surveys, which involved more than 30,000 households in five countries in Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Sierra Leone), three in Asia (Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines) and one in Latin America (Colombia). The samples for nine of the surveys were drawn from some of the researchers’ earlier studies. They included workers in both the formal sector—in which people often have set hours and wages, along with some form of social security—and the informal sector, in which work can be irregular and can come with little job security. These nine surveys also involved agricultural laborers, small business owners and refugees. The [ … ]