22. New Coronavirus Pandemic ― Hunger Pandemic
The United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) has expressed concern that the new coronavirus (COVID-19) could put 265 million people at the risk of acute hunger by the end of 2020. That figure is almost double the number of 135 million in the Global Food Crisis Report: 2020, published this month by the Food Security Information Network (FSIN).
The report was prepared before the emergence of the new coronavirus pandemic, with 135 million people in 55 countries facing severe hunger, mainly as a result of conflict, the effects of climate change, and the economic crisis. The new figures indicate that the lives and livelihoods of 130 million people in lower and middle-income countries will be at risk unless prompt action is taken. This number represents the scale of catastrophe we are facing.
Of particular concern to the spread of health hazards from viruses are people living in conflict areas or forced to leave their homes and enter refugee camps. Viruses can spread in crowded camps. Similarly, people living in cramped and unsanitary urban slums will be at risk.
Furthermore, the effects of the new coronavirus are not limited to health damage, and it is necessary to prepare for the second and third waves. People are losing their sources of livelihoods and incomes, while at the same time disrupting their supply chains. These will be double punches that widen both the breadth and depth of hunger worldwide.
There is concern over sudden poverty in urban middle classes, day laborers, informal and service workers. In urban areas, people are more vulnerable to price volatility and food availability as they depend on the markets for food. Sudden and sharp declines in purchasing power are particularly problematic, especially in poor countries where there are not enough financial resources to launch a large safety net program.
For countries in Africa and the Middle East, stagnation in trade is expected to have serious consequences. Sub-Saharan African countries imported more than 40 million tons of cereals from all over the world in 2018. Reliance on imports makes them vulnerable to risks such as price fluctuations during the global crisis. At the same time, countries that depend on fuel exports, such as Angola and Nigeria, are likely to be hit hard. When trade stops, humanitarian activity also stops. While the lives of millions of people depend on trade, and there are concerns about its implications for food security, these countries appealed for trade promotion on the premise that setting of trade barriers often fails.
Tens of millions of people who are already in hunger need to be immune to the economic consequences of this virus, in addition to their health and loss of livelihood and income brought about by COVID-19. While the governments of each affected countries are doing everything to help their people, the UN WFP is calling for funding to provide even faster support to the most vulnerable.
World Food Programme Insight. Risk of hunger pandemic as COVID-19 set to almost double acute hunger by end of 2020. Accessed on April 22, 2020.
The Food Security Information Network (FSIN). 2020 Global Report on Food Crises. Aaccessed on April 22, 2020.
WFP. HungerMap LIVE.Accessed on April 22, 2020.
WFP. Hunger Analytics Hub. Accessed on April 22, 2020.
Contributor: SHIRATORI Sakiko (Research Strategy Office)