The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to global food security. According to the latest report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the number of people facing hunger has increased by more than 150 million in 2021 compared to 2019.
The FAO estimated that between 702 and 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021, marking a significant increase from the previous year.
The report highlights that the share of undernourished people on the planet rose from 8% to 9.3% in 2020 and further to an estimated 9.8% in 2021. This marks a notable shift from the previous five years, where the rate of undernourishment had remained relatively unchanged.
The regional disparities in hunger rates are staggering. In Africa, more than 20% of the population is facing hunger in 2021, compared to 9.1% in Asia and 8.6% in Latin America. Meanwhile, Europe and North America had less than 2.5% of the population affected by hunger.
The impact of the pandemic on food security has been profound. The latest projections suggest that by 2030, almost 670 million people will still be undernourished. This is 78 million more people than what would have been expected if the pandemic had not occurred.
The World Food Programme (WFP) also reports that about 345 million people are experiencing acute food insecurity, a stark increase from 135 million before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WFP has identified several regions that have been particularly hard hit by food insecurity, including the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, and Yemen. These areas have seen a significant increase in the number of people facing hunger, driven by conflict, climate change, and the economic impact of the pandemic.
The pandemic has disrupted food supply chains, limited access to markets, and caused significant economic hardship for many households. The measures put in place to contain the spread of the virus, including lockdowns and restrictions on movement, have exacerbated existing inequalities and pushed many people further into poverty.
The FAO has called for urgent action to address the crisis in food security. This includes measures to support smallholder farmers, improve access to markets, and strengthen social protection systems to ensure that vulnerable populations have access to food. The WFP has also called for increased funding to address acute food insecurity and prevent a humanitarian crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on global food security, pushing millions of people into hunger and exacerbating existing inequalities. Urgent action is needed to address the crisis, including measures to support smallholder farmers, improve access to markets, and strengthen social protection systems. Failure to act risks causing long-term damage to the global food system and exacerbating poverty and inequality.