Zimbabwe: Pandemic Pushes Up Global Hunger – UN


Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor

The number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2020 — nearly one-tenth of the world population — as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect global food security, according to the first State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) released recently.

The UN report indicates that up to 811 million people went hungry in 2020 after remaining virtually unchanged for five years.

“World hunger increased last year. Further, it is projected that around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030, 30 million more people than in a scenario in which the pandemic had not occurred, due to lasting effects of COVID-19 on global food security,” the UN report said.

“The setback makes the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal for zero hunger and ending all forms of malnutrition more challenging.”

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread around the world, with more than 185 million confirmed cases and four million deaths across nearly 200 countries.

Lockdown restrictions, deaths and growing cases are increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition.

This has derailed efforts to achieve the UN SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition.

The World Health Organisation said the world is experiencing a worsening public health emergency that further threatens lives, livelihoods and the world economy.

Developing nations with limited access to vaccines are the worst affected.

The latest SOFI report indicates that progress has been made for some forms of malnutrition, but the world is not on track to achieve any global nutrition targets by 2030.

“Globally, 44 percent of infants under 6 months of age were exclusively breastfed in 2019 — up from 37 percent in 2012 but the practice varies considerably among regions. Child malnutrition still persists at an alarming rate — an estimated 149 million children were stunted, 45 million were wasted and 39 million were overweight in 2020,” the report said.

While more than half of all undernourished people (418 million) live in Asia, Africa represented the biggest jump in cases — more than double that of any other region — at 21 percent of the population.

More than a third of the continent’s population — 282 million — is estimated to be undernourished, the report said.

The report presents new projections of potential additional cases of child stunting and wasting due to Covid-19.

“Based on a conservative scenario, it is projected that an additional 22 million children in low- and middle-income countries will be stunted, an additional 40 million will be wasted between 2020 and 2030 due to the pandemic.

“Comprehensive and urgent efforts are required to address the detrimental effects of the pandemic and achieve the 2030 global targets,” the UN report said.

“Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight, is about more than securing enough food to survive: what people — and particularly children — eat must also be nutritious.”

Over the past year, Covid-19 — and the unprecedented measures to contain it have exposed and intensified the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems.

The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterised Asia seems to be slowing down significantly.

Apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, UN food experts also say that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.

The experts say there is a need to accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate change problems.

The report recommended policymakers undertake a number of actions to prevent undernourishment, such as incorporating humanitarian, development and peace-building policies in conflict areas, strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable to economic adversity and tackling poverty and structural inequalities.

Global food inflation has also compounded the food security and malnutrition levels.

Acute food insecurity has soared 40 percent this year as recent food price hikes have exacerbated existing pressures from conflict, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said in another report.

Defined as any lack of food that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, acute food insecurity is affecting, or is at high risk of affecting, a record 270 million people this year, the UN agency reported.

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Publish date : 2021-07-19 08:33:55

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