Rising inequalities: urgent need for increased relief


June 2020: The dangers of increasing inequalities, poverty, food insecurity and the need for urgent and enhanced relief package was highlighted by Dr Madhura Swaminathan, Chairperson MSSRF at a webinar recently. Titled ‘COVID19: Addressing Food Security and Nutrition’, jointly hosted by Monash Business School’s Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability (CDES); the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and MSSRF the webinar panel included eminent speakers Dr David Dawe, Senior Economist with the Food and Agriculture Organisation, United Nations, (FAO), Dr Marie T Ruel, Director of the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI),

Dr Madhura Swaminathan’s suggestions included for an enhanced relief package included Rs. 7,500 monthly cash transfer for six months, doubling and universal rations through the Public Distribution System, inclusion of eggs, vegetables and milk besides pulses, oil, salt and soap which are crucial for family nutrition and hygiene. In addition, provision of cooked meals through schools, colleges and restaurants in urban areas, along with community kitchens in urban areas was suggested.

In her presentation, Dr Ruel spoke of the impact on maternal and child mortality due to COVID-19 and reduced service delivery. An estimated drop in coverage for six months could mean an additional 56,000 maternal deaths and 1,157,000 child deaths, she said. Dr Dawe focused on the impact on trade and markets across countries due to COVID, especially on the smaller economies.

The webinar was held in the context of COVID-19 disrupting global food supply chains, compromising food security and nutrition, especially in poor countries and those with existing humanitarian crises to brainstorm on globally coordinated responses to address this threat to world food security and nutrition. The panel was moderated by Dr Glenn Denning, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, and Senior Policy Advisor, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The webinar was part of the COVID-19 and Beyond: A CDES Webinar Series, featuring international speakers responding to the sustainable development challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Text: Jayashree B