World faces most significant increase in hunger in decades

30 Jul 21

World faces most significant increase in hunger in decades

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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.

Boosting food security and resilience in Africa

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Shumirai's groundnut harvest increased, along with her family's food security and nutrition. Caption: Caritas Gweru.

With your support, we’re working with the most vulnerable, marginalised communities around the world to increase food security and alleviate hunger to ensure that there is enough to eat all year round.

In Zimbabwe, twenty-three year old, Shumirai lives with her husband, Tafadzwa, their three-year-old son, and her mother-in-law in rural Zimbabwe. Their village has faced persistent drought and erratic weather patterns, which have drastically reduced their harvest sizes and driven up local food prices in recent years. Around five million people in Zimbabwe do not have enough food to eat in 2021.

In 2019, they joined the Zimbabwe Integrated Community Development Program, which is supported by Caritas Australia, implemented by Caritas Gweru. Shumirai attended training sessions and learnt about livestock-rearing practices and groundnut production. She was also given five goats to raise herself. Together they have been able to improve their harvests, diversify their crops and increase food security, despite the ongoing drought.

“After planting and following all the recommended practices during training, we were chosen as the best groundnut farmers in our village,” says Shumirai. 

Now, Shumirai, no longer needs to rely on river water, and has enough water to maintain her goats and crops. The family also has enough groundnuts to make peanut butter which helps to improve her son’s health and nutrition.

Supporting food and water security in Asia

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Lat and Em learnt sustainable farming techniques and boosted their food and water security. Credit: Sam Rinang.

Nearly 80% of people living in poverty live in rural areas (World Bank), with many relying on agriculture as their primary source of food and income.

In subsistence agricultural households, farmers grow crops to meet their own family’s immediate food needs and are often dependent on producing healthy crops for their survival. When a family has secure access to food, they are less vulnerable to disease and poverty and more likely to have improved nutrition.

Lat and Em are rice and poultry farmers living in rural Cambodia, with eight children. They experienced poor harvests every year due to ongoing water shortages. Many of their chickens and ducks contracted diseases and died due to a lack of water – and they found it hard to make a sustainable income. 

Through your support, Lat and Em participated in Caritas Australia-supported training program which is implemented in partnership with eight local Cambodian NGOs.

They learnt sustainable farming techniques which enabled them to increase their food and water security, to adapt to environmental changes and build resilience to floods and droughst, as well as improving hygiene and sanitation practices to help to prevent COVID-19.  

Now, Lat and Em’s farm is thriving, their income has increased and they are working with their community to rehabilitate waterways, to construct toilets in the village, as well improving their children’s access to education. 

“Before I could not grow vegetables year-round and did not have enough quantity for selling to get an income, as we had no water sources for farming,” Lat says. “Now I am raising chicken and ducks, with a very low rate dying and can sell them all, almost every month,” Em says. “These best results are because I practice better techniques, including building a chicken house, feeding the chickens more regularly, using ecological medicines and separating chicken and chicks - all of these practices which I didn’t know their importance before joining project.” 

With your generous support, we’re able to continue this important work towards boosting food security and nutrition and alleviating hunger around the world.

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Along with your generous support, this program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).