New research hub to coordinate CGIAR’s COVID-19 response
A CGIAR COVID-19 Hub has been established to consolidate existing scientific evidence and help support response, recovery and resilience measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hub, bringing together agriculture and health research in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), will compile relevant work from across the CGIAR System and partners around the world, and provide a platform for sharing future breakthroughs and identifying opportunities for new research.
As UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned recently, immediate action on food systems is needed to prevent a global food emergency that could have long-term health effects. Disruptions to economies and food supply chains risk worsening poverty, hunger and nutrition over generations. A food systems response has the potential to stave off disaster, while ‘building back better’ for a healthier and more sustainable future.
Around two-thirds of CGIAR’s existing research portfolio is already directly relevant to tackling the coronavirus outbreak. The work of most immediate relevance encompasses four research pillars: (i) Food systems; (ii) One Health (the human-animal-environment health interface); (iii) Inclusive public programs for food security and nutrition and (iv) Policies and investments for crisis response, economic recovery and improved future resilience.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing weaknesses in food systems, societies and economies around the world,” said Elwyn Grainger-Jones, Executive Director of the CGIAR System Organization.
“The current crisis presents an unprecedented opportunity for humanity to ‘build back better’ – particularly as regards more resilient and inclusive agriculture. CGIAR will join its network of more than 3,000 partners to co-lead global debate and action on what ‘building back better’ looks like for food, water and land systems.”
Since the virus emerged, CGIAR has pivoted its focus to help countries cope with the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and food security. The new CGIAR COVID-19 Hub will initially focus its attention on priority areas of research and response, including surveillance and modeling of secondary impacts of COVID-19, such as the risk of increased poverty and hunger, and on monitoring and preventing future zoonotic disease outbreaks.
In Bangladesh, for example, CGIAR is working with local partners to monitor food, labor, input supplies and prices, and to advise on appropriate policies, with an emphasis on minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable members of society.
At a global level, CGIAR is also working with UN agencies and development partners, for example, to carry out phone surveys to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on rural households’ livelihoods and access to food.
“Solutions need to be science-based and coordinated across sectors to provide immediate response and assistance for those most in need, ongoing and inclusive support in recovery, and – perhaps most importantly – future resilience to all shocks, including climate extremes, Grainger-Jones added.
The pandemic broke out as CGIAR was undertaking a major institutional transformation. A newly integrated leadership and Board in place this year will support the level of collaboration required for an integrated global and country response.
“As well as research across four priority pillars, CGIAR will also focus on innovations to support recovery, including country-by-country ‘deep dives’ with COVID-19 impact modeling and analyses, and ‘One Health’ risk-based approaches to agriculture-environmental management and emerging zoonoses,” said John McDermott, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), which will host the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub.
In the longer term, CGIAR will widen its focus to build greater resilience of food, land and water systems to prevent future outbreaks and reduce vulnerabilities.
The LSHTM’s contribution to the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub will build on the current work of the Centre for Health Economics In London (CHIL) and the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases (CMMID).
“Supporting national efforts to address the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 will require connecting prediction of disease scenarios under different mitigation strategies with their social and economic outcomes,” said Anne Mills, the LSHTM’s Deputy Director and Provost, and Professor of Health Economics and Policy.
“LSHTM is pleased to work with CGIAR in cross-sectoral research to provide evidence for coordinated health, economic and food policy decision-making in low- and middle-income countries.”
About the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub
The CGIAR COVID-19 Hub provides a coordinated research response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Convening researchers, funders, and key stakeholders, it focuses on supporting national response and recovery work across CGIAR research themes through the response, recovery, and resilience building phases of the global pandemic. The CGIAR COVID-19 Hub is a global initiative hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, and co-implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Livestock Research Institute, the CGIAR System Organization, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
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