The global food crisis is causing food insecurity in an increasing number of countries, reversing years of development gains. A number of factors, including conflict, socio-economic conditions, natural disasters, climate change, and pests led to chronic and acute hunger before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains. COVID-19 has impacted vulnerable households across almost every country, contributing to severe increases in global food insecurity, and the effects will continue into 2021 and 2022.
As the UN reports, undernutrition increased around 118 million globally in 2019 compared to the same time in the previous year – while remaining virtually unchanged for the previous five years.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in our food systems, threatening lives and livelihoods everywhere.
According to the U.N report, there are 768 million undernourished people worldwide, with 418 million living in Asia, 282 million in Africa, and 60 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. More than double the number of undernourished people live in Africa compared to any other region.
Over the past year, the number of people without access to adequate food increased by 320 million, reaching 2.37 billion – the same increase as in the five years preceding it.
The World Bank conducted rapid phone surveys in 48 countries and found that many people are running out of food or reducing their consumption. The reduced calorie intake and compromised nutrition of young children has the potential to adversely affect their cognitive development and may lead to further poverty reduction.
It’s hard to say when the novel coronavirus will be contained since it’s still spreading. So, we need to address food security at the global and national levels in order to ensure everyone has adequate food.
It is imperative that food prices and markets are closely monitored. Government management of the food market will be strengthened by the transparent dissemination of information. The system will prevent panic among farmers and guide them to rational production decisions.
Also, it is important to ensure the international food and agricultural supply chains are functioning properly.
A more resilient food system requires even more investment. The investment in developing countries’ capacity to prevent or contain food insecurity crises must come from both national governments and international organizations.
A strong food system is essential to the effective response to COVID-19. Relocalization of food production or a balance between imported and locally produced food is a reasonable strategy for strengthening robustness and building resilience to COVID-19’s strain on international supply chains.
Additionally, urban agriculture and home gardens can be more resistant to shocks. This would ensure that urban poor have access to more nutritious and varied food, and there are minimized disruptions.
Similarly, nutrition is a key component of sustainably managed fisheries and aquaculture which is also a means of livelihood and employment.
In addition, technological advances such as digital e-commerce platforms that are designed especially for small- and medium-sized enterprises and are not controlled by large corporations are better able to handle supply chain disruptions unleashed by COVID-19.