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Facing hunger

The global effort to eradicate hunger by 2030 that has already been facing challenges before the Covid-19 pandemic, suffered further setbacks as a UN report released last week found an estimated 18 percent increase in the number of people facing hunger.

The “economic downturns, as a consequence of Covid-19 containment measures all over the world, have contributed to one of the largest increases in world hunger in decades,” said the annual food security and nutrition report compiled by several United Nations agencies.

Although the full impact of the pandemic cannot yet be determined, the report estimated around 118 million more people faced hunger in 2020 than in 2019, an increase of 18 percent. The rise in moderate or severe food insecurity was equal to the previous five years combined.

The increase in hunger was widespread as the economic downturn affected almost all low and middle income countries. But the biggest impact was in countries where there also climate related disasters or conflict, or both.

More than half of the people who were malnourished lived in Asia (418 million), more than a third in Africa (282 million) and 60 million were in Latin America.

In the poorest countries, measures to fight the pandemic led to subsistence farmers being prevented from selling produce in local markets. On the other hand, cities experienced problems in supply, resulting in higher prices.

“More alarmingly, the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities forming in our food systems over recent years as a result of major drivers such as conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns and downturns,” noted Dominique Burgeon, a director for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN.

The UN said there is a unique opportunity to reverse the dynamic this year thanks to two major food and nutrition summits plus the COP26 meeting on climate change.

Areas affected by conflicts, climate change, economic struggles that have already been struggling with hunger even before the Covid-19 pandemic will need to factor in the many changes that need to be made as far as that battle is concerned, as the world slowly starts to recover from the pandemic. After the restrictions are lifted and the economy finally restarted, additional safeguards will also be needed against climate change and other risks that could threaten the food supply and security of the country.*

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