Global hunger and malnutrition soared last year, mostly due to COVID-19 – United Nations agencies
LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) – Levels of hunger and malnutrition around the world worsened significantly last year, with most of the increase likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a multi-agency report from United Nations (UN) released Monday.
After remaining virtually unchanged for five years, the number of undernourished people rose to around 768 million last year, equivalent to 10% of the world’s population and an increase of around 118 million from 2019 , according to the report.
Written by United Nations agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the report is the first comprehensive assessment food insecurity and nutrition since the onset of the pandemic.
âSadly, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten lives and livelihoods. No region of the world has been spared,â the agencies said in a joint statement.
The 2021 edition of âThe State of Food Security and Nutrition in the Worldâ estimated that, given current trends, the United Nations sustainable development goal of ending hunger by 2030 will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people.
This number is 30 million more than in a scenario where the pandemic did not occur.
“Our worst fears are coming true. Reversing such high levels of chronic hunger will take years, if not decades,” said WFP chief economist Arif Husain.
There is increased diplomatic momentum this year to tackle hunger and malnutrition with upcoming summits like the United Nations Food Systems Summit and the Nutrition for Growth Summit. But the report stressed that the challenge was enormous.
The number of people unable to access adequate food year-round increased by 320 million to 2.37 billion last year – an increase in one year equal to the previous five years combined.
Of the 768 million undernourished people, 418 million were in Asia, 282 million in Africa and 60 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Africa, 21% of people are undernourished, more than double that of any other region.
âIn a world of plenty, we have no excuse for billions of people not to have access to healthy food. This is why I am convening a world summit on food systems in September, âsaid UN Secretary General AntÃ³nio Guterres.
“(Investing in) changes in our food systems will initiate a transition to a safer, fairer and more sustainable world. It is one of the smartest and most needed investments we can make,” he said. -he adds.
After declining for several decades, food insecurity has been on the rise since the mid-2010s, particularly in countries affected by conflict, climatic extremes, economic downturns or struggling against high income inequalities.
WFP chief David Beasley said that while 41 million people are currently at risk of starving to death, the combined net worth of the world’s billionaires is increasing by about $ 5.3 billion a day, the same amount needed to save the lives of those who are starving around the world.
âThe fact that we beg and cry (for funds) is a disgrace to humanity,â he said.
Reporting by Maytaal Angel Editing by Hugh Lawson and Mark Potter
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