Has the global hunger crisis worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), consist of 17 goals to be achieved by 2030. Ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture were raised as key aspects of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger)
What is meant by hunger? The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) defines food deprivation, or undernourishment, as the consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a healthy and productive life, given that person’s sex, age, stature, and physical activity level. There are 4 pillars of hunger: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.
The COVID-19 is having an unprecedented impact around the world, both in health and socioeconomic terms. By 27 July, 4.2 million cases and about 143 000 deaths had occurred globally (WHO, 27 July 2020).
The global goal of ending hunger is daunting, given that, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 820 million people had a caloric intake insufficient to meet minimum energy requirements, about 1.9 billion people struggled with or were worried about access or affordability of a healthy diet, including 30 million children under the age of five years are dangerously underweight.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has sickened millions of people, killed hundreds of thousands, and caused unprecedented economic damage. In so doing, the pandemic has also illuminated many of the shortcomings of our global food production and distribution system, disrupting the food supply and food waste at a time when hunger is widespread and growing. SDG 3, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all,” and SDG 8, “promote sustained inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all,” go hand in hand in the battle against food loss and waste during the era of COVID-19.
The Sustainable Development Report 2020 — the SDGs and COVID 19, explains the short-term impacts of COVID-19 on the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The impacts are divided into 4 levels: mainly positive impact, mixed or moderately negative impact, highly negative impact, and impact still unclear. SDG 2 falls into a highly negative impact level.
What are the impacts? Food insecurity due to a reduction in global food supplies and trade. Hunger due to fall in incomes and reduced food availability during the lockdown. Higher food loss and waste due to transportation challenges and reduced labor availability. Poorer nutrition due to interruption of school meals.
On the food supply side, harvests have been good and the 2020 outlook for staple crops is promising. However, movement restrictions necessary to contain the spread of the virus will disrupt the transport and processing of food and other critical goods, increasing delivery times and reducing the availability of even the most basic food items.
The latest numbers indicate the lives and livelihoods of 265 million people in low and middle-income countries will be under severe threat unless swift action is taken to tackle the pandemic, up from a current 135 million. In 2019 alone, almost 135 million people in 55 countries, or 16 percent of the total population analyzed, were classified in crisis conditions or worse. This report shows that a startling insight into the devastating potential of this virus.
However, COVID-19 brings extraordinary new challenges to hunger, and we will need new solutions. Government must build fairer, more robust, and more sustainable food systems to end this hunger crisis. We must always be grateful for our food today and can set aside for people in need.
2019 Global Hunger Index
2020 Global Report on Food Crises
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