24.04.2020 |

COVID-19 could almost double acute hunger, food agencies warn

Acute food insecurity will increase (Photo: CC0)

In 2019, 135 million people across the globe faced acute hunger, according to a report published on April 21 by an international alliance of UN and non-governmental agencies. In 2020, this figure could double to at least 265 million people being pushed to the brink of starvation due to the Covid-19 crisis, warns the World Food Programme (WFD), one of the publishers. The Food Security Information Network (FSIN) found that last year, almost 135 million people in 55 countries or territories experienced acute food insecurity, up from 113 million people in 53 countries in 2018. The key drivers which pushed people into acute food insecurity were conflict/insecurity, weather extremes and economic turbulence. More than half (73 million) of the 135 million people covered by the report live in Africa, followed by 43 million living in the Middle East and Asia and 18.5 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. The number of people facing acute hunger whose lives are in immediate danger is just the tip of the iceberg. Worldwide, 821 million people are chronically undernourished.

Additionally, in 2019, 183 million people in 47 countries were classified in “stressed condition” which means they are at the brink of acute hunger and at risk of slipping into crisis or worse if faced with a shock or stressor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or extreme weather events. Just ten countries – Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, the Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti – accounted for 65% of the total population of people already suffering from acute hunger. Of these 88 million people, 15.9 million were living in Yemen and 15.6 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In terms of prevalence, South Sudan was the country hit worst, with 61% of the population suffering from acute hunger, followed by 53% in Yemen. The figures in the report refer to 2019 and were prepared before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and do not yet consider the potential impact of desert locust infestations on food security in East Africa. But according to new WFP projections, the COVID-19 pandemic will see more than a quarter of a billion people in low and middle-income countries suffering acute hunger by the end of this year.

“These new projections show the scale of the catastrophe we are facing,” warned WFP chief economist Arif Husain. “We must make sure that tens of millions of people already on the verge of starvation do not succumb to this virus or to its economic consequences in terms of loss of jobs and incomes.” He is most worried about people living in conflict zones and those forced from their homes and into refugee camps. “They did not need COVID-19. Even without it their lives were hanging by a thread. They literally depend on us for their lives. If we cannot get to them for any reason they end up paying the ultimate price,” Husain added. He said the situation in poor countries is too gruesome to comprehend. “We need to get ready for the second and the third wave of this disease,” he urged. “People are losing their livelihoods and their incomes and, at the same time, supply chains are disrupted. This translates into a double whammy which has both the breadth and the depth of hunger increasing around the world.” (ab)

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Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
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