Despite modest improvements 3 million people in English-, Dutch-speaking Caribbean still face food insecurity

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2024, 22:53 by Writer

BRIDGETOWN – A recent study has found that despite modest improvements on last year, food insecurity in the English- and Dutch-speaking Caribbean remains persistently higher than pre-pandemic levels, driven by the cost-of-living crisis, global economic volatility and the lingering impacts of the pandemic.

The Caribbean Food Security and Livelihoods Survey, carried out jointly by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) found that 43 percent of the population – or three million people – are estimated to be food insecure in 22 countries and territories.

These small island developing states (SIDS) continue to grapple with high costs of food and inputs for productive sectors, and the overwhelming majority of those surveyed (96 percent) reported rising food prices over the past three months. With a high dependence on imported goods, coupled with limited economies of scale, the unique challenges of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) mean that much of the population continues to struggle to afford a healthy diet.

With a highly active Atlantic hurricane season forecast to kick off on 1 June, the threat of natural hazards on food security looms large for those living the region. More than a third of those surveyed reported having been affected in the last 12 months – mainly by heatwaves, floods, drought and tropical storms. This has further eroded their capacity to cope with yet another shock. These climate shocks,
combined with the lingering socio-economic impact of the pandemic, combined with the ripple effect of the crisis in Ukraine, have created major challenges for people and their livelihoods.

“In the face of persistent food insecurity, impactful investments in agriculture, finance, and social protection are urgently needed. Robust investments in disaster management are critical to fostering resilient food systems. Every individual in this region deserves consistent access to nutritious and affordable food for their families,” said Regis Chapman, Representative and Country Director of WFP’s Caribbean Multi-Country Office.

While levels of food insecurity have declined over the last two years, from 4.1 million in 2022 to 3 million in 2024, the overall picture remains deeply concerning. Those involved in productive sectors, farming and fishing, continue to bear the brunt of inflation. Livestock farmers reported increased feed prices and higher prices for tools and machinery. Meanwhile, nearly 80 percent of surveyed people engaged in
fishing activities were affected by the rising cost of fuel for their operations.

“Continued investment in our regional food systems as SIDS is critical if we are to transform the regional food security position into one that creates equitable wealth and economic prosperity. The collective efforts of the region must address food production, distribution, food transportation, movement of capital, reform of sanitary and phytosanitary challenges, improving the use of technology and promoting
investment has to position the region to becoming more food secure,” said Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary General for Economic Integration, Innovation and Development at CARICOM Secretariat.

As world leaders prepare to meet at the 4th International Conference on SIDS next week, this survey presents key data for a region that continues to call for greater equitable access to resources to achieve development goals. Overall, the survey’s findings indicate that there is hope for the region and highlights the need for greater international support to accelerate progress on Zero Hunger and help build
pathways towards sustainable food systems.

WFP’s Caribbean Multi-Country Office was opened in 2018 and covers 22 countries and territories across the English and Dutch Caribbean. In the region, WFP works with national governments and regional institutions like the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency, to strengthen disaster management, social protection and food systems. These investments place the most vulnerable at the forefront with the aim of strengthening resilience at the individual, community and systems level.

The survey was completed with the support of the Government of Canada, the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.