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Hunger increases globally during the pandemic

hunger in the world
The 2020 economic crisis, largely stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, triggered one of the largest increases in hunger in the world in decades, affecting almost all countries in low and middle income.

In some regions, especially in Africa and Asia, this recession was joined by other factors, such as climate-related disasters, conflict, or the combination of both, greatly increasing the rate of the undernourished population, reveals a new study interagency of the UN.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, jointly developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), count the number of undernourished by 811 million in 2020, about a tenth of the world population.

The increase in undernourished individuals from 2019 to 2020 reached 118 million with regional inequalities rated as "persistent and worrisome" by the authors of the report.

Hunger by Regions

Of the total number of undernourished people in 2020, more than half (418 million) live in Asia and more than a third (282 million) in Africa, while Latin America and the Caribbean inhabit 8% (60 million).

...Even in North America and Europe, where the lowest rates of insecurity are found, the incidence increased for the first time since the beginning of the collection of data from the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, in 2014.

Regarding the effect by gender of moderate or severe food insecurity, a 10% higher rate was observed among women than among men in 2020, compared to 6% in 2019.

The Children

Among the populations most affected by malnutrition, children under the age of five stand out. Although the specific data on this group were limited in 2020 and the estimates did not necessarily take into account the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 149.2 million (22%) were stunted in 2020.

...Although data on nutrition outcomes for 2020 are lacking, the more conservative projections point to a scenario in which 11.2 million children under the age of five in income countries low and medium would be added to the total of those suffering from wasting from 2020 to 2022 as a consequence of the pandemic.

A more pessimistic scenario raises to 16.3 million the children more affected by this scourge. For the childhood stunted growth, the model predicts that an additional 3.4 million children will suffer from stunted growth due to the effects of the pandemic in 2022.

Critical moment

UN agencies warn that the world is going through a "critical juncture" and call for giving a diplomatic boost to the promotion of food security and nutrition through the transformation of food systems in the framework of the United Nations Summit on Food Systems "organized this year by the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres", and the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention of the United Nations on Climate Change (COP 26), to be held next October in Glasgow, Scotland.

...In his call to transform food systems as an essential condition for achieving food security, improve nutrition, and make healthy meals affordable for all, underlines the need for policies and investments that counteract the determining factors of hunger and malnutrition.

To this end, he outlines six recommendations to the food policy makers, for all countries to be applied according to their national reality:

Integrate humanitarian, development and peacebuilding strategies into the conflict zones, for example, through social protection measures that prevent families from selling their few belongings to feed themselves
Expand the resilience of food systems against climate change, offering small farmers broad access to climate risk insurance and fundings based on scientific forecasts
Strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable population to economic adversities through goods or cash support programs to reduce the effects of the pandemic or volatility in food prices
Strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable population to economic adversities through goods or cash support programs to reduce the effects of the pandemic or volatility in food prices
Fight poverty and structural inequalities, boosting food value chains in poor communities through technology transfers and certification programs
Strengthening food environments and promoting changes in consumer behavior, for example eliminating industrial trans fats and reducing the salt and sugar content in foods, or protecting children from the negative effects of food marketing.
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