Pandemic will cause chronic hunger to another 130m people, UN warns

The United Nations warns that the coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 130 million more people into chronic hunger this year, news wires reported. The grim assessment was contained in the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, an annual report released on Monday by the five UN agencies that produced it.

Preliminary projections based on available global economic outlooks suggest the pandemic “may add an additional 83 (million) to 132 million people to the ranks of the undernourished in 2020,” the report said. Also compounding the situation is what the report’s authors described as “unprecedented Desert Locust outbreaks” in Eastern Africa.

The UN agencies estimated that nearly 690 million people, or nearly 9% of the world’s population, went hungry last year, an increase of 10 million since 2018 and of nearly 60 million since 2014.

In terms of sheer numbers, Asia is home to the greatest number of undernourished people, an estimated 381 million, the report said. Africa has the most as a percentage of the population, UN researchers found, with nearly 20% of the continent’s people undernourished. That compares to 8.3% in Asia and 7.4% in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the report.

With progress in fighting hunger stalled even before the pandemic, the report’s authors said that COVID-19 “is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems”, defined in the report as all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution and consumption of food.

As a result of the pandemic, food supply disruptions, lost livelihoods and the inability of people working abroad to send remittances home to their families mean it’s “even more difficult for the poorer and vulnerable populations to have access to healthy diets,” the UN agencies concluded.

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