The number of people who did not have enough food to eat increased dramatically during the Covid-19 pandemic to include nearly a third of the world, according to a new UN report posted on Monday.
Five UN agencies said the number of people without access to healthy diets grew by 320 million last year to almost 2.37 billion people, more than the increases of the previous five years combined.
The number of hungry people increased by about 161 million last year to 811 million.
The report of five UN agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad); the UN fund for children, Unicef; the World Food Program; and the World Health Organization – said that the effects of the pandemic on nutrition are still being counted, but that the levels of deterioration in growth and development among children due to the pandemic are expected to increase. An estimated 22% of children under the age of five dwarf.
Ifad president Gilbert Houngbo said that enough food was being produced to feed everyone and that the crisis was a failure in the food system.
“It is clear that, unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose the weaknesses of our food system, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, particularly the most vulnerable and those living in countries affected by conflict, climate change and inequality “. he said.
Houngbo said that even when enough food was produced, crises like the pandemic could affect regional and international trade, which is especially damaging for countries that depend on imports.
“We need to transform all aspects of our food system – how we collect, process, package, transport and market our food – to provide healthy diets and decent incomes for the people who work in it,” he said.
The report showed that food insecurity was driven by a variety of factors, sometimes in combination, including economic crises, conflict, the climate crisis, and inequality.
These factors have been at play in South Sudan, which is facing its worst hunger crisis since independence 10 years ago, aid workers warned. In the past year, humanitarian agencies have struggled to deliver to the worst affected areas due to lack of security or flooding.
Sulaiman Ken Sesay, Director of Save the Children South Sudan, said: “It is a story of generations of deliberate displacement of civilians, destruction of livelihoods and land occupation, compounded by climate impacts such as unprecedented floods and plagues of locusts, and a story of Covid -19 and its destruction of already vulnerable social infrastructure.
“Only by addressing the root causes of this crisis, as well as mitigating the devastating effects of the pandemic, can we prevent a generation from succumbing to the immediate and long-term consequences of malnutrition.”
Houngbo said the pandemic had underscored the importance of investing in rural areas, which have suffered some of the worst effects of poverty and the climate crisis, as well as conflicts that can be fueled and caused by hunger.
He said that small farmers were the most reliable food providers and should receive more investment to reach the global goal of ending hunger by 2030. Meeting that goal is even further away than previously thought as a result of the pandemic.
He said the growing shift towards local food production in some African countries was encouraging. “In the world’s poorest countries, agriculture has the potential to become a prosperous and successful sector that feeds its communities, creates jobs and provides economic and livelihood benefits, a resilient sector that can successfully manage the climate risks of today and tomorrow, “he said. .
Jean-Michel Grand, UK Director of Action Against Hunger, said: “Every year the levels of hunger in the world rise and every year it seems that the international community kicks the can further. What percentage of the world’s population needs to go hungry before governments start taking this problem seriously? Will we have to wait until famines become widespread? Because this is an unavoidable consequence if we continue to mismanage and underfund this problem.
“This report will be difficult for the UK government to read, which is making sharp aid cuts at a time when world hunger is increasing. Nutrition programming, which is the first line of defense against hunger, faces a staggering 80% cut in funding. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism