The world must act now – or watch the drivers of hunger and malnutrition recur with growing intensity in coming years, long after the shock of the pandemic has passed.
In a recently released report by the UN – The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World – almost a third of the world population did not have enough food to eat in 2020.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers rose drastically with up to 811 million people being undernourished, 282 million-plus found in Africa.
The estimated prevalence of undernourishment in Africa stood at 21 percent of the population, which is more than double that of any other region.
The stats show a worrying trend across the globe. It indicates that not enough food was being produced to feed everyone and the crisis was a failure in the food system.
In many parts of the world, the pandemic triggered brutal recessions and jeopardized access to food. But even before the pandemic, hunger was spreading and the progress on malnutrition lagged.
This was even more so in nations affected by conflict, climate extremes or other economic downturns, or battling high inequality – all of which the report identifies as major drivers of food insecurity, which in turn interact.
According to the UN report, the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger by 2030) will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people. Of these 660 million, some 30 million may be linked to the pandemic’s lasting effects.
The question is, what can be done to help salvage the grim situation?
For one, transforming food systems is essential to achieving food security, improving nutrition, and putting healthy diets within reach of all.
On top of that, there is a need for a coherent set of policy and investment portfolios to counteract the hunger and malnutrition drivers, as noted by the UN.
Other recommendations made include:
The UN also calls for an “enabling environment of governance mechanisms and institutions” to make transformation possible. It enjoins policymakers to consult widely; empower women and youth, and expand the availability of data and new technologies.
Above all, the world must act now – or watch the drivers of hunger and malnutrition recur with growing intensity in coming years, long after the shock of the pandemic has passed.