According to the World Bank’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the current global food insecurity problem and may push an additional 115 million people into extreme poverty by the end of the year. Moreover, Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig, Senior Research Scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, believes the negative effects of the pandemic on global poverty, such as forcing more people to go hungry, may last until 2050.
UN’s Goal to Achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 under Threat
The United Nations (UN) set a goal of achieving zero hunger by 2030, a target put in place after global hunger began to rise again in 2015 after years of steady decline. Currently, around 690 million people suffer from hunger, representing 8.9% of the world’s population, and 135 million suffer from acute hunger and are at risk of dying from lack of food. This figure is predicted to double by the end of 2021 as a result of the pandemic.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people going hungry worldwide was increasing by about a million people per year. Already, the UN was faced with a huge task to reduce this figure. Now, with the pandemic intensifying food security problems, the goal of reaching zero hunger by 2030 is seriously jeopardized.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Hunger
Unsurprisingly, the pandemic had a significant impact on all aspects of global food systems in 2020. National lockdowns and restrictions on international movement had a detrimental effect on food production, distribution, and consumption.
In addition, the economic recession that has been induced by the pandemic is also taking its toll on global food systems. With unemployment rising, people now have less money to spend on vital amenities such as food and housing. The latest figures reveal that food bank usage in some areas has increased by as much as 61% by the end of 2020, illustrating the increasing reliance on food donations in the aftermath of the pandemic’s devastation.
Free Trade as a Solution to Food Insecurity
Fortunately, scientists believe there are solutions to help tackle the increasing problem of food insecurity and hunger. One key strategy may be encouraging free trade, which will facilitate the movement of food from areas where such resources are more abundant to areas where they are much scarcer.
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