As reported by The Guardian, the world stands on the brink of a food crisis worse than any seen for at least 50 years, the UN has warned as it urges governments to act swiftly to avoid disaster. Better social protections for poor people are urgently needed as the looming recession following the coronavirus pandemic may put basic nutrition beyond their reach, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said.
“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long- term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults,” he said. “We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.” About 50 million people risk falling into extreme poverty this year owing to the pandemic, but the long-term effects will be even worse, as poor nutrition in childhood causes lifelong suffering. Already, one in five children around the world are stunted in their growth by the age of five, and millions more are likely to suffer the same fate if poverty rates soar.
Guterres laid out a plan to repair the world’s ailing food systems and prevent further harm including urging governments to prioritise food supply chains and building a global recovery from the pandemic that prioritises healthy and environmentally sustainable food systems.
Increasing unemployment and the loss of income associated with lockdowns are putting food out of reach for many struggling people. Lockdowns are slowing harvests, while millions of seasonal labourers are unable to work. The additional impact of the coronavirus crisis and lockdowns, and the resulting recession, would compound the damage and tip millions into dire hunger, experts warned.
The pandemic risks reversing the progress that has been made in recent decades on lifting people out of poverty and improving their access to healthy food, the UN found.
Any remedies must also target the climate emergency, which is strongly linked to the world’s food systems, said Elwyn Grainger- Jones, the executive director of the CGIAR System Organization, a global agricultural research body. “Solutions need to be science- based and coordinated across sectors to provide immediate response and assistance for those most in need, ongoing and inclusive support in recovery and – perhaps most importantly – future resilience to all shocks, including climate extremes.”