“Hunger pandemic” could be worse than COVID-19

Thursday, 2021-08-12 15:47:40
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People crowd to get food rations from a charity kitchen in Sanaa, Yemen July 20, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – Ahead of the United Nations' first ever Food Systems Summit scheduled to take place in New York in September, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an international response to increasing food insecurity. UN officials warned that a “hunger pandemic” could be worse than the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is showing the importance of global cooperation in confronting major challenges, including food insecurity. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the international community to step up its efforts to achieve all 17 sustainable development goals by transforming the food system. Poverty, income inequality and the high cost of food have continued to make securing a healthy, adequate diet “out of reach” for about three billion people on the planet and fighting against hunger remains a challenge in many areas.

Food insecurity is at risk of being exacerbated in the current epidemic context. About 270 million people worldwide are on the verge of starvation. UN officials emphasise that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the fragility of the global food system, thereby requiring a more equitable, sustainable and flexible system to ensure it provides stable and continuous food for about 8.5 billion people around the world by 2030.

Worryingly, not only poor countries but also rich countries are having a “headache” due to food insecurity. According to a recent report by the UN, nearly 9% of people in Europe and North America experienced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2020. This figure was up from that of 7.7% recorded a year earlier. The report points out that those who fell into poverty in rich countries were self-employed, or temporary contract workers.

Dealing with the “pandemic of hunger” is an immediate task of governments and the international community. The UN Secretary-General has also called for a simultaneous solution to both hunger and conflict, as the two issues are interrelated. According to him, addressing hunger is also the foundation for stability and peace. Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also called for addressing the root causes of severe hunger and making the agro-food system more efficient, resilient, and sustainable.