World faces most significant increase in hunger in decades

World faces most significant increase in hunger in decades

A UN report has shown significant increase in world hunger during the COVID-19 pandemic. With our local partners, we're working to support the most vulnerable communities around the world. Credit: Inmanuel Chayan Biswas

A report released by the UN this month shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the most significant increase in world hunger in decades, with global hunger increasing last year by 18 per cent compared to the year before.

This year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report estimates that between 118 and 161 million more people were facing hunger in 2020. A staggering 2 billion people are unable to access enough food or adequate nutritious food year-round.

More than half of the people who were malnourished lived in Asia (418 million), more than one third in Africa (282 million) and eight percent or 60 million in Latin America, according to the report.

Although the full impact of the pandemic is as yet unclear, it is believed that much of the increase is likely related to fallout from COVID-19.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating on communities that were already living close to the edge,” says Kirsty Robertson, CEO of Caritas Australia. "We’ve seen how easy it is for food systems to fail – and the devastating long-term impacts for low and middle-income countries.”

“When farmers can’t get to market because of lockdowns, they can’t sell their crops, which means that not only do they not earn enough income for that season, but they can’t invest in seeds and fertilisers for next season. When this happens to enough farmers, entire regions that were previously food secure are put at risk of food shortages and famine because nobody can afford to grow crops.”

The UN warns that the world is at a critical point and must act now to achieve the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030.

It says transforming food supply systems is crucial to achieve food security, alleviate hunger and to improve nutrition for all globally. This includes strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable communities to economic adversity to lessen the impact of pandemic-style shocks or volatility in food markets, as well as scaling up climate resilience across food systems.