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Coronavirus pandemic increases global famine by one fifth

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The Covid-19 pandemic increased global famine by a fifth, and the rising number of people suffering from worldwide famine threatens to have a long-term impact on the global food supply, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“In recent years, several major drivers have put the world off track to ending world hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030,” the report reads.

“The challenges have grown with the COVID-19 pandemic and related containment measures.”

By 2020, global famine will have increased by 18% to a figure of between 720 and 811 million people suffering from hunger, the biggest increase in at least 15 years.

“In 2020, between 720 and 811 million people were in famine. That’s about 118 million more people than in 2019 if we take the centre of the fork as the point of comparison,” reads the report, which was prepared jointly by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Unicef, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation.

“We see that the figures have gone through the roof,” Dominique Burgeon, director of the FAO, said.

According to the report, around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030, in part due to lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global food security – 30 million more people than in a scenario where the coronavirus pandemic did not occur.

Additionally, the number of people facing food security problems has risen by 320 million to 2.37 billion by 2020, an increase roughly equivalent to that of the past five years combined.

“Nearly one in three people in the world did not have access to adequate food in 2020,” the report said.

Some of the factors throwing things off track for 2030 global nutrition goals are insufficient progress when it comes to child stunting, exclusive breastfeeding and low birth weights.

When it comes to overweight children, child wasting, anaemia in women of reproductive age and adult obesity, progress is either stalled or the situation is actively getting worse.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has likely impacted the prevalence of multiple forms of malnutrition, and could have lasting effects beyond 2020,” the report warns.

“These will be compounded through the intergenerational effects of malnutrition and the resulting impacts on productivity.”