US Concerned over Food Security Issue in South and Central Asia Due to Coronavirus Lockdown: Official

US Concerned over Food Security Issue in South and Central Asia Due to Coronavirus Lockdown: Official

Washington: The US has expressed concern over the food security issue in some of the South and Central Asian countries, saying the national lockdowns by the respective nations to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus is having a major impact on the cross-border trade.

Several nations across South and Central Asian countries have implemented complete lockdown for a temporary period to contain the spread of deadly coronavirus that so far globally has claimed the lives of 74,565 people and left 1,345,048 infected, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"As countries around the world implement new measures to limit COVID, we're tracking whether interruptions to cross-border trade and logistics could threaten food security for some of the region's more vulnerable areas and groups," Alice G Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, told reporters here during a press conference.

She cautioned the countries to ensure that the current public health emergency doesn't become a food security emergency due to the halt of the cross-border trade.

"We're certainly advocating that countries in the region keep their cross-border trade in basic foodstuffs and other humanitarian goods going in a safe manner so that this public health emergency doesn't become a food security emergency, Wells said.

"Food security is an issue that the US is watching throughout the region because it's natural as countries go into lockdown in response to COVID-19 and that unintended consequences can happen as countries prioritise domestic consumption, the repercussion or potential repercussion of those decisions," she said.

So whether it's the Government of Kazakhstan temporarily or potentially rationing exports of wheat and wheat flour, whether it's the closure of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, whether it's blockages that have taken place on other borders in the region, our encouragement to all is to manage the trade, to keep trade open to vital necessities, and to do this in a cooperative spirit, Wells said.

She said the US is working in close coordination with the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions on the process of providing emergency response funding to countries in need of such support.

"The US is very pleased that the World Bank announced on April 2 a total of 1.9 billion in COVID-19-related emergency response loans, of which USD 1.46 billion will be extended to countries in South and Central Asia. The US annually contributes nearly 16 per cent of the overall World Bank funding," she added.