The Covid-19 pandemic, and the global recession caused by it, will without doubt make matters worse, the report warns, with 130 million more suffering from chronic hunger in 2020.
The UN has warned in its recently released State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report that achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of zero hunger might not be possible by 2030. The report estimates 690 million people suffering from hunger globally in 2019, 10 million more than the previous year.
The Covid-19 pandemic, and the global recession caused by it, will without doubt make matters worse, the report warns, with 130 million more suffering from chronic hunger in 2020. In 2019, Asia had the highest number of hungry people (381 million), followed by Africa (250 million), and Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million). However, by 2030, Africa is estimated by the UN to account for around more than half of the world’s hungry people by 2030. The lowest-cost healthy diet is estimated to cost, on an average, more than $1.90—which is more than the international poverty threshold—and around three billion people across the globe are unable to afford this. Rising food deprivation will exacerbate the existing problem of nutrition security.
The largest impact, both for the present as well as the future, will be of hunger amongst children—191 million children under the age of five are currently undernourished. While India saw under-5 undernutrition decline by around 60 million over the last one and a half decade, from 21.7% in 2004-06 to 14% in 2017-19, and stunting has also come down, experts fear the pandemic could erode some of this progress. The UN has pitched for clubbing direct cash transfers with in-kind transfers to ensure food security and diet diversity, though, in India’s case, it talks of the inefficiencies of the PDS and calls for reducing subsidies and redirecting these to direct cash transfer. Malnutrition, as estimated by FAO earlier, may cost nations 4-5% of their GDPs. Given how ensuring food security gets more urgent in the post-Covid-19 world, India needs to shift comprehensively to cash support, so that the vulnerable don’t fall through gaps—thanks to poor implementation, the bulk of beneficiaries of the free-grains announced under the corona relief package by the Union government were unable to receive these in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.