A CHARITY supporting developing countries has warned about the impact coronavirus will have for years to come.
Rugby-based Practical Action is supplying handwashing kits to vulnerable communities across Africa and Asia while educating about the importance of keeping hands clean.
But its main concern is how the outbreak will affect food supply and potentially plunge more communities into poverty.
Chief executive Paul Smith-Lomas said: “In Nepal the lockdown means dairy farmers can no longer get milk to market and are being forced to throw their produce away. In Senegal the government has purchased large amounts of emergency supplies from international sources, putting at risk incomes of millions of people who are vital to the domestic food supply chain.
“In many countries where Practical Action works, lockdowns will prevent harvesting, planting and the trade of food in markets.In Sudan, Zimbabwe and West Africa – April and May represent a crucial time for the farmers we work with to plant crops before the rainy season begins.
“The result could be a disaster that hits the most vulnerable hardest. Small farms produce 80 per cent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa 70 per cent of food is produced by women, who will be burdened even further if they have to look after the sick.
“If we don’t keep supply systems and markets running, we could be facing a slow onset famine across the global south. Without action, millions of people already living a fragile hand-to-mouth existence could starve.”
The charity is working to form a link between farmers and governments to ensure the food supply continues.
It is also providing healthcare workers into communities to educate on the importance of handwashing and coming up with emergency plans for farmers.
But Mr Smith-Lomas says there needs to be a global response to support the vulnerable communities who were already ‘living on the edge’ before the outbreak.
He added: “The decisions being made now have the potential to start or prevent disaster. “For the futures of the most vulnerable, we must make the right ones. At Practical Action we are ready to act now and use our on-the-ground expertise, but in order to do so leaders and donors must take their eyes away from the darkness of the immediate and address the looming shadow of the near future.”
Visit practicalaction.org for more information.