From Uche Uche, Damaturu
Global food insecurity has surged amid the corona virus pandemic, threatening to worsen humanitarian crises and spur further mass migration.
According to current news release by the council on foreign affairs, in 2019, an estimated 135 million people faced life-threatening food insecurity, according to the World Food Program, the UN food assistance agency. Now, that number is projected to nearly double due to the corona virus pandemic, with food emergencies afflicting countries that have not required interventions in the past.
Roughly 690 million people are undernourished globally, but more than three billion can’t access the cheapest healthy diets. Additionally, obesity is of growing concern in low- and high-income countries alike, as families turn to cheap foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar.
It pointed out that pandemic restrictions have made it more difficult to access food, and economic downturns around the globe could mean long-lasting inability to afford food for hundreds of millions of people and the consequent hunger crisis will have dramatic implications in many areas.
It threatens to unravel decades of progress in global health: poor diets are the leading contributor to the world’s disease burden, including childhood conditions such as stunting and chronic illnesses caused in part by obesity.
Hunger, both acute and chronic, can also impede children’s education and career prospects and in extreme cases, it can roil the political landscape.
Surging food prices helped fuel recent protests in Lebanon, while shortages led to demonstrations in Chile earlier this year. Many without access to food flee home in search of it; the WFP estimates that for every 1 percent increase in hunger, there is a 2 percent increase in migration.
At the same time, the pandemic has mobilized international institutions, governments, and aid organizations to take action. The corona virus has laid bare widening gaps in food access and affordability, two areas where experts are focusing their efforts to make food systems more resilient.
Last year, almost one-tenth of the world’s population was exposed to severe food insecurity, the most extreme level of insecurity as measured by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization This means a person has run out of food or at some point gone an entire day without eating. Asia has the largest population of undernourished people, at more than 380 million, followed by Africa and Latin America.
As with poverty, often mutually reinforcing factors drive food insecurity. These include conflict, uneven food distribution, poor governance, economic challenges, and population displacement. Environmental issues—such as extreme weather events, water scarcity, and pollution—threaten food production, and climate change is adding a new level of danger.
Food security is not just about consuming enough calories but also adequate nutrition. This means taking in macro-nutrients; carbohydrates, fats, and proteins—as well as micro-nutrients, which are vitamins and minerals. Such diets are far out of reach for people living on less than $1.90 per day at 2011 international prices, which aid officials define as the threshold for extreme poverty.