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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Did COVID-19 Market Disruptions Disrupt Food Security? Evidence from Households in Rural Liberia and Malawi

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We quantify the effect of market disruptions due to COVID-19 on the lives of householdsin rural areas of Liberia and Malawi, utilizing panel data from phone surveys that were implemented as part of a randomized cash transfer experiment. The surveys began collection several months before the pandemic and have continued throughout it. The household survey included a consistent set of internationally accepted and validated questions on food security (the householddietary diversity score, the household hunger scale, and the food consumption score). In both countries, market activity was severely disrupted and we observe large declines in income among market vendors, but we find no evidence of declines in food security for households in the short run. Even though we observe no adverse effects of the lockdowns on food securityamong the control group, cash transfers improved dietary quality and quantity over the low levels observed at baseline.

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