Almost 20 million more people than a year ago faced a food crisis last year due to armed conflicts, the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather conditions, according to a report prepared by Global Network Against Food Crises. A total of 155 million people worldwide were affected by the problem, the most in the five years since the report began publishing.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said this “grim reading” shows why the inequality in food distribution requires the urgent attention of world leaders. “We have to do everything we can to break this vicious circle. There is no place for hunger in the 21st century,” emphasized Guterres.
The humanitarian organization Global Network Against Food Crises was founded in 2016 by the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP).
According to the organization’s report, last year 155 million people in 55 countries of the world were in “crisis or worse” food situation. This means an increase by nearly 20 million compared to the year before. Two-thirds of them live in Africa.
An estimated 142 million people in 40 countries will be in a food crisis in 2021 and a further 155,000 will face a disaster.
The document states that the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating food demand. The organization warned of an increase in the number of people suffering from hunger due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
People in a food crisis experience high levels of malnutrition and can only meet minimum dietary requirements. About 133 thousand people were classified as facing a disaster – defined as a step from starvation – in war-torn Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen.
Researchers found that African countries were disproportionately affected by food shortages. Last year, some 98 million people faced severe food insecurity there. But this problem also affects other parts of the world. Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Haiti were among the 10 worst places in the world in terms of food availability in 2020.
Over 75 million children under the age of 5 worldwide were too short, and over 15 million were too thin because of limited access to food. These are the most tragic findings since the report was first drawn up in 2016.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres mentioned world conflicts, natural disasters and economic crises as the main causes of hunger. “They cannot be resolved separately. Hunger and poverty, combined with inequality, climate shocks and tensions over land ownership and resources, are causing and fueling conflicts,” pointed out the UN Secretary General.
“Similarly, conflicts force people to leave their homes, land and jobs. They disrupt agriculture and trade, reduce access to vital resources such as water and electricity, and thus fuel hunger and famine,” he added.
As the report reads, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation as people have been forced to leave their jobs due to restrictive measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Hunger grew in unstable economies where there were few unemployment benefits to protect workers from losing their jobs.
“The pandemic has exposed the weakness of the world food system and the need for fairer, more sustainable and resilient systems,” said the EU, FAO, WFP and USAID in a joint statement. “A radical transformation of our agri-food systems is needed”, “if the current trends are not reversed, food crises will become more frequent and severe” – warned the organizations.
Main photo source: EPA / Alberto Valdes