The COVID-19 pandemic will send over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report.
“While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19,” the report said.
One of the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition, it is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The report states that Coronavirus pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems, all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution and consumption of food.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report states that Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished. The number estimated is 381 million. Africa comes second with 250 million, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean 48 million. The report also said “the global prevalence of undernourishment – or overall percentage of hungry people – has changed little at 8.9 percent, but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014. This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.”
Africa is seen as the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished. This percentage is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent). As per the present trends, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry by 2030.
Unhealthy diets, food insecurity and malnutrition
The report said that about three billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. About 57 per cent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia have no access to a healthy diet, it said. According to the report, a quarter and a third of children under five, which comes to around to 191 million were stunted or wasted. Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own right, the report said.
The report says that a healthy diet costs far more than 1.90 dollars per day, which is the international poverty threshold. Fruits, nutrient-rich dairy, protein rich foods and vegetables are the most expensive food groups globally, the report said.
CALL TO ACTION
The report has urged a transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. Noting that specific solutions will differ from country to country, t6eh report said “even within them, the overall answers lie with interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the food environment, and in the political economy that shapes trade, public expenditure and investment policies.”
The study calls on governments to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture; work to cut cost-escalating factors in the production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing of food – including by reducing inefficiencies and food loss and waste; support local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods, and secure their access to markets; prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behaviour change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.