THE IMPORTANT ROLE OF APTERR AMID A PROLONGED COVID-19 PANDEMIC ERA
The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease posed by a newly discovered coronavirus. Most people will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment whereas elders and those with underlying diseases such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, diabetes, and cancer are more likely to develop to a serious illness. By today, there are more than a million cases around the world infected, including ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) member countries. Besides, there are currently no specific vaccines for COVID-19.
Since the widespread of the unprecedented COVID-19, it is heightened risks in the economy, the well-being of people, socio-economics, and especially food security in the ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN+3) region and the world at large. In the COVID-19 crisis on the food security issue, the uncertain pandemic has been affecting the entire food system and laid bare its frailty. The disruption of domestic and international food supplies and the lockdown measures have been restricted farmers from accessing markets, including buying inputs and selling their products, and farm laborers from harvesting crops. Therefore, the said disruption enhanced the exposures in accessing of health, security, and diversity of diet. Besides, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has also decimated occupations and placed the adverse impacts of the livelihoods at dramatic risks. At present, a massive of population becomes unemployed and losses income, therefore, food security and nutrition of the affected people are under threat. Those low-income countries, particularly the most marginalised populations or vulnerable groups, will confront the hardest hit of plummeting incomes and reducing food consumption posed by the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19.
While COVID-19 continues to assail and devastate the global, the food security outlook seems to be more intensified. Hence, the Special ASEAN +3 Summit have a cooperative resolution on eradicating food insecurity amid the uninterrupted COVID-19 outbreak in the ASEAN +3 region.
According to the Joint Statement of the Special ASEAN +3 Summit on COVID-19 via video-conference on 14 April 2020, they shared the mutual commitment to enhance solidarity and heighten the cooperation among the ASEAN+3 countries to control and contain the diffusion of the pandemic and addressing the adverse impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the economies and societies of the ASEAN+3 region. In relation to this, the ASEAN +3 leaders considered setting up the ASEAN +3 reserve of essential medical supplies to rapidly respond to the emergency needs of the member countries. Similarly, they encouraged the existing regional emergency reserve facilities to underscore the utilisation of the full and effective mechanism of the APTERR to ensure food security, overcome possible food shortages, strengthen the resiliency as well as build sustainability of regional food supply chains especially food, commodities, and medical supplies in the post-pandemic period. Furthermore, on 14 November 2020, the 23rd ASEAN +3 Summit has highlighted the role of ASEAN +3 cooperation, particularly APTERR, in stabilising food security in the region during emergencies and minimising the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak by cooperating and working closely with related-food security agencies to assure that markets are held open and transportation of agricultural as well as foodstuffs are facilitated.
To react to the above-mentioned, the APTERR Secretariat took an action to the suggestions on issuing a statement emphasising a strong collaboration with the APTERR Parties in utilising the full extent of the APTERR mechanism to safeguard food security in the region. Additionally, the APTERR Secretariat has near-at-hand monitored food security situations and coordinated with the APTERR members to mitigate the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the affected people, particularly vulnerable groups.
With an uncertain outbreak of COVID-19, the APTERR has already provided rice assistance with a total of 1,350 MT, contributed by Japan and the Republic of Korea. The implementation has been implemented under Tier 3 programme to reduce food insecurity and aid over hundred thousand of at-risk beneficiaries in Myanmar.
During the current century, food security has turned into an important issue due to the increasing impacts of climate change, diseases, and man-made disasters. To ease and tackle the adverse effects, we must solidify the support and development of long-term sustainable strategies to mitigate the challenges facing food insecurity. Meanwhile, the APTERR also needs to improve its mechanisms for coping and combating the emergency situations. Likewise, the APTERR Secretariat has to concentrate on collaborating with the food security-related agencies such as the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre) on disaster management, World Food Programme (WFP), and especially the ASEAN Food Security Information System (AFSIS) for the efficacy operations of the mechanisms. With strong cooperation, the APTERR will be enabled to quickly respond to the member countries’ needs.
30 November 2020
* This article is a product of the APTERR Secretariat. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APTERR Secretariat and its APTERR members.
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