.
T

he COVID-19 pandemic coincided with an alarming expansion in world hunger and malnourishment last year, according to a new report released jointly by five United Nations (UN) agencies. The arrival of this publication marks the first global assessment of food insecurity and malnutrition for 2020, and it anticipates that the UN will fall short of its commitment to end world hunger by 2030.

“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long-term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video accompanying the release of the report.

More: How the pandemic helped create more child soldiers.

The UN estimated that 118 million people experienced hunger in 2020, leaving a total of 768 million people without sufficient nourishment. Africa was identified as having the most significant and widespread increase: 21 percent of its population faced hunger last year, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (9.1%) and Asia (9.0%).

The expansion of hunger was so dramatic, in fact, that it exceeded population growth in 2020.

The expansion of hunger was so dramatic, in fact, that it exceeded population growth in 2020, as indicated by the report’s measure of the extent of hunger. The prevalence of undernourishment increased from 8.4 percent to 9.9 percent of the population by the end of 2020, despite remaining largely unchanged from 2014 to 2019.

Additionally, the UN noted a significant uptick in global food insecurity. The number of people without access to safe and nutritious food rose by 320 million people in 2020––almost as much as the last five years combined. Overall, one in three people, or 2.37 billion individuals, were classified as moderately to severely food insecure.

More: Investing in sustainable food systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a driving force behind these drastic trends in hunger and malnutrition, maintained the UN, which simultaneously acknowledged that more data must be collected to fully quantify the effects of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted—and continues to disrupt—all of the systems related to good nutrition,” said Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at the launch of the report. For example, containment measures reportedly restricted essential nutrition services, and economic disruptions resulting from the pandemic negatively influenced the affordability of healthy diets.

These impacts aren’t likely to disappear as case numbers decline, warned the UN. Rather, the report suggested that the pandemic’s influence will extend beyond 2020 due to issues such as the intergenerational effects of malnutrition on children.

One in three people, or 2.37 billion individuals, were classified as moderately to severely food insecure.

Among those less than five years old, the UN estimated that 149.2 million children experienced stunted growth and 45.4 million experienced wasting, a life-threatening condition caused by insufficient nutrition and prolonged illness. The UN only expects these numbers to rise as pandemic data becomes clearer.

Yet, as the report also clarified, COVID-19 is not alone to blame for the food crisis. “The COVID-19 pandemic is just the tip of the iceberg,” noted the report. “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.”

To alleviate these global food challenges, the UN calls for dramatic action. On one hand, its recommendations encourage the reinforcement of existing food systems: first, by developing conflict-affected areas; second, by putting safeguards in place for food supply chains vulnerable to economic or climate instability.

On the other hand, it calls for financial support. More funding, claimed the UN, can decrease the cost of nutritious food, reduce poverty, and reorient consumer behavior to favor healthy and sustainable dietary patterns. 

More: Criticism and praise mark UN's 75th anniversary.

About
Thomas Plant
:
Thomas Plant is a student at the College of William & Mary pursuing a BA in International Relations and Hispanic Studies. He is a founding co-director for DisinfoLab, an undergraduate research lab at W&M.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Global Hunger Spiked Alarmingly During Pandemic

Photo by BigStock.

July 23, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic coincided with an alarming expansion in world hunger and malnourishment last year, according to the United Nations. The effects are likely to be long-lasting.

T

he COVID-19 pandemic coincided with an alarming expansion in world hunger and malnourishment last year, according to a new report released jointly by five United Nations (UN) agencies. The arrival of this publication marks the first global assessment of food insecurity and malnutrition for 2020, and it anticipates that the UN will fall short of its commitment to end world hunger by 2030.

“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long-term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video accompanying the release of the report.

More: How the pandemic helped create more child soldiers.

The UN estimated that 118 million people experienced hunger in 2020, leaving a total of 768 million people without sufficient nourishment. Africa was identified as having the most significant and widespread increase: 21 percent of its population faced hunger last year, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (9.1%) and Asia (9.0%).

The expansion of hunger was so dramatic, in fact, that it exceeded population growth in 2020.

The expansion of hunger was so dramatic, in fact, that it exceeded population growth in 2020, as indicated by the report’s measure of the extent of hunger. The prevalence of undernourishment increased from 8.4 percent to 9.9 percent of the population by the end of 2020, despite remaining largely unchanged from 2014 to 2019.

Additionally, the UN noted a significant uptick in global food insecurity. The number of people without access to safe and nutritious food rose by 320 million people in 2020––almost as much as the last five years combined. Overall, one in three people, or 2.37 billion individuals, were classified as moderately to severely food insecure.

More: Investing in sustainable food systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a driving force behind these drastic trends in hunger and malnutrition, maintained the UN, which simultaneously acknowledged that more data must be collected to fully quantify the effects of the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted—and continues to disrupt—all of the systems related to good nutrition,” said Henrietta Fore, the Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) at the launch of the report. For example, containment measures reportedly restricted essential nutrition services, and economic disruptions resulting from the pandemic negatively influenced the affordability of healthy diets.

These impacts aren’t likely to disappear as case numbers decline, warned the UN. Rather, the report suggested that the pandemic’s influence will extend beyond 2020 due to issues such as the intergenerational effects of malnutrition on children.

One in three people, or 2.37 billion individuals, were classified as moderately to severely food insecure.

Among those less than five years old, the UN estimated that 149.2 million children experienced stunted growth and 45.4 million experienced wasting, a life-threatening condition caused by insufficient nutrition and prolonged illness. The UN only expects these numbers to rise as pandemic data becomes clearer.

Yet, as the report also clarified, COVID-19 is not alone to blame for the food crisis. “The COVID-19 pandemic is just the tip of the iceberg,” noted the report. “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.”

To alleviate these global food challenges, the UN calls for dramatic action. On one hand, its recommendations encourage the reinforcement of existing food systems: first, by developing conflict-affected areas; second, by putting safeguards in place for food supply chains vulnerable to economic or climate instability.

On the other hand, it calls for financial support. More funding, claimed the UN, can decrease the cost of nutritious food, reduce poverty, and reorient consumer behavior to favor healthy and sustainable dietary patterns. 

More: Criticism and praise mark UN's 75th anniversary.

About
Thomas Plant
:
Thomas Plant is a student at the College of William & Mary pursuing a BA in International Relations and Hispanic Studies. He is a founding co-director for DisinfoLab, an undergraduate research lab at W&M.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.