ROME: The United Nations (UN) said the number of the world’s hungry last year have risen by 10 million and warns that the coronavirus pandemic could force as many as 130 million more people into chronic hunger this year. The grim assessment was included in an annual report, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, released on Monday, July 13, by the five UN agencies that produced it.
According to the report, preliminary assessments based on the available global economic outlook indicate that “the pandemic will add 83 million more to the undernourished, taking the total to 132 million in 2020”. The UN agencies reported that almost 690 million people, or almost 9% of the world’s population, went hungry last year, a rise of 10 million since 2018, and nearly 60 million since 2014. As per the report, chronic hunger, after steadily declining for decades, slowly began rising from 2014 and continues to till date.
In terms of sheer numbers, Asia has the largest number of undernourished people, estimated at 381 million, the report said. UN researchers found that Africa has the most as a percentage of the population, 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 authors of the report have said that COVID-19 increases the vulnerability of global food systems-defined in the report as all actions and processes affecting food production, distribution and consumption.
The UN agencies have said that more than 3 billion people cannot afford to purchase food for a healthy diet. Thus, it should be ensured that all these people have access not only to food but to nutritious foods that make up a healthy diet. They added that 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 is even more difficult for the poorer and vulnerable populations to have access to healthy diets.