The number of people affected by chronic hunger in 2020 ( Covid 19 time) rose drastically than in the previous five years and reversing the situation will likely take years if not decades, warned the UN agencies.
In the first global assessment of its kind in the pandemic era, “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report noted that and the world was moving in wrong direction with respect to world hunger. The report said that it would take a tremendous effort for the world to honour its pledge to end hunger by 2030. The Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization jointly came out with the report. The previous editions of the assessment have already warned that the food security of millions is at stake.
Ion the report, the agencies said that the world was not on track even before the COVID-19 pandemic to meet commitments to end world hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. “Now, the pandemic has made this significantly more challenging,” the report said.
In the forward to the report, the agencies wrote “the world is at a critical juncture, not only because we have to overcome more significant challenges to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, but also because, with the fragility of our food systems widely exposed, we have an opportunity to build forward better and get on track towards achieving SDG 2.”
NUMBERS IN DETAIL
The report mentions that hunger started creeping upwards in the mid-2010s, dashing all hopes of irreversible decline. “Disturbingly, in 2020 hunger shot up in both absolute and proportional terms, outpacing population growth: some 9.9 percent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 percent in 2019,” the report said.
The report pointed out that more than half of all undernourished people (about 418 million) live in Asia, more than a third (about 282 million) in Africa and a smaller proportion (about 60 million) in Latin America and the Caribbean. It also mentioned that the sharpest hunger rise was in Africa.
The report also said that 2020 was sombre. “Overall, more than 2.3 billion people (or 30 percent of the global population) lacked year-round access to adequate food: this indicator – known as the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity – leapt in one year as much in as the preceding five combined. Gender inequality deepened: for every 10 food-insecure men, there were 11 food-insecure women in 2020,” the authors write.
Another area that finds mention in the report is malnutrition. The report stated that malnutrition persisted in all its forms, with children paying a heavy price. Over 149 million under-fives are estimated to have been stunted, or too short for their age in 2020. The same year also saw more than 45 million wasted, or too thin for their height and nearly 39 million overweight. Nearly a third of women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia, the report pointed out.
In the report, the world agencies also highlight the impact of climate change and how the developing countries were exposed to hunger despite the fact that they contribute little to global CO2 emissions.
These countries are also the least prepared to withstand or respond to climate change.
The report gives much importance to children’s health. It said that more than 149 million under fives were affected by stunting and 370 million missing out on school meals in 2020 because of school closures during the pandemic.
The report briefed that path to Zero Hunger is being stopped dead in its tracks by conflict, climate and the pandemic. Hunger is destroying the future of children’s potential.
- Prevalence of undernourishment increased 1.5 percentage points in 2020 – reaching a level of around 9.9 percent
- Between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger in 2020.
- Around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030, in part due to lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global food security – 30 million more people than in a scenario in which the pandemic had not occurred.
- Close to 12 percent of the global population was severely food insecure in 2020, representing 928 million people – 148 million more than in 2019.
- High cost of healthy diets coupled with persistent high levels of income inequality put healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people, especially the poor, in every region of the world in 2019.
- Africa and Asia account for more than nine out of ten of all children with stunting, more than nine out of ten children with wasting and more than seven out of ten children who are affected by overweight worldwide.
- An estimated 29.9 percent of women aged 15 to 49 years in 2019 around the world are affected by anaemia
WHAT TO BE DONE
The report urges policymakers to:
- Integrate humanitarian, development and peacebuilding policies in conflict areas – for example, through social protection measures to prevent families from selling meagre assets in exchange for food;
- Scale up climate resilience across food systems – for example, by offering smallholder farmers wide access to climate risk insurance and forecast-based financing;
- Strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable to economic adversity – for example, through in-kind or cash support programmes to lessen the impact of pandemic-style shocks or food price volatility;
- Intervene along supply chains to lower the cost of nutritious foods – for example, by encouraging the planting of biofortified crops or making it easier for fruit and vegetable growers to access markets;
- Tackle poverty and structural inequalities – for example, by boosting food value chains in poor communities through technology transfers and certification programmes;
- Strengthen food environments and changing consumer behaviour – for example, by eliminating industrial trans fats and reducing the salt and sugar content in the food supply, or protecting children from the negative impact of food marketing.
- Enable environment of governance mechanisms and institutions to make transformation possible.
- Consult widely to empower women and youth; and to expand the availability of data and new technologies.