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Food insecurity has been on the rise since 2014, and the year 2000 has added equal to the last five years combined. Nearly one in three people in the world ie about 2.7 billion, did not have access to adequate food in 2020. Close to 12 per cent of the global population was severely food insecure in 2020 representing 928 million people – 148 million more than in 2019.

This year’s edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the first global assessment of its kind in the pandemic era. The report is jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Already in the mid-2010s, hunger had started creeping upwards, dashing hopes of irreversible decline. Disturbingly, in 2020 hunger shot up in both absolute and proportional terms, outpacing population growth: some 9.9 percent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 percent in 2019.
  • More than half of all undernourished people (418 million) live in Asia; more than a third (282 million) in Africa; and a smaller proportion (60 million) in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the sharpest rise in hunger was in Africa, where the estimated prevalence of undernourishment – at 21 percent of the population – is more than double that of any other region.
  • Overall, more than 2.3 billion people (or 30 percent of the global population) lacked year-round access to adequate food: this indicator – known as the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity – leapt in one year as much in as the preceding five combined.
  • Gender inequality deepened: for every 10 food-insecure men, there were 11 food-insecure women in 2020
  • Nearly a third of women of reproductive age suffer from anaemia. Globally, despite progress in some areas – more infants, for example, are being fed exclusively on breast milk – the world is not on track to achieve targets for any nutrition indicators by 2030.
  • GLOBAL hunger level has been skyrocketing since outbreak of COVID-19. In 2020, it rose by more than in the previous five years combined.
  • Between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger during the first year of the pandemic, and the world is off the track to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
  • Since India is among the worst hit countries, which is facing the spectre of the third wave while the second wave has hardly been over, a new wave of poverty and hunger is knocking at the door.
  • The new data that represents the first comprehensive global assessment of food insecurity carried out since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, reveals that it would have great implication in the world where one in five children is already stunted.
To prevent this, we must transform our agri-food systems so as to provide everyone access to the food they need. The report has been prepared for better understanding of the issue before the UN Food Systems Summit which is scheduled to be held later this year.
  • About 10 per cent of the world population – between 720 and 811 million – were undernourished last year, more than half of them, i e, about 418 million were living in Asia, the report said. South Asia obviously is the worst region in Asia. Since India houses largest number of people in South Asia, it is also home to the largest number of hungry and poor in the region.
The Global Hunger Index 2020, had reported 14 per cent of the population of India undernourished, and had ranked it 94th out of 107 countries in the world.
COVID-19 has brought mass poverty back in India. After 45 years, the world’s fastest poverty-reducing country added maximum number of poor in a year, as various estimates have already indicated.
The poverty profile of India in 2019 showed about 27 crore people under extreme poverty line, while the food security programmes have announced to cover about 81 crore people.
Food support is not reaching the intended people because only about 26 crore people have been provided with ration cards, and it is not working for migrant workers because Government was not able to create the online system for which the Supreme Court of India has fixed a deadline for July 31.
India is thus clearly facing a new wave of poverty and hunger. A UN radio programme titled “Amid India’s COVID battle, a new wave of poverty and hunger” has also highlighted the issue of increasing poverty and hunger in the country. The programme has highlighted the dichotomy of India’s being food surplus and non-availability of food to a large number of people leading to severe malnutrition.
Women and children suffered the most, the programme emphasised with pointing towards great gender gap. Migrants, poor, and tribal communities were also the most impacted during the second wave of the pandemic. The worst part of the issue is that people don’t have money enough to purchase healthy food especially after spending huge amounts of money on health during the pandemic, the programme highlighted.
Now the five institutions that have come out with the global report have maintained that ‘reversing this situation will likely take years, if not decades.’ Globally, 2.4 billion people did not have access to sufficiently nutritious food in 2020, which is an increase of nearly 320 million people in one year. After remaining virtually unchanged for five years, the prevalence of undernourished increased 1.5 per cent in just one year reaching a level of around 9.9 per cent. It has been estimated that 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030, if situation remains the same.
The figures of stunting and wasting are expected to be higher, the report said. Today, 150 million youngsters still do not have access to a school lunch, said WFP, which urged countries to restore these programmes and put in place “even better ones … that give children and communities a future.”
Malnutrition is most likely to be aggravated which will impact productivity. “The report highlights a devastating reality: The path to Zero Hunger is being stopped dead in its tracks by conflict, climate and COVID-19,”
“The world needs to act to save this lost generation before it’s too late.” The world is at a critical juncture, the report has emphasised. It is very different to where it was six years ago when it committed to the goal of ending hunger, food insecurity, and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
The world has not been generally progressing towards achieving the goal, and the pandemic has worsened the situation further and challenges have multiplied. The fragility of our food systems has widely been exposed.

The report has also highlighted how climate change has left communities in developing countries most exposed to hunger. Weather related shocks and stresses are also “driving hunger like never before.” The five agencies have suggested in the report that “it will take a tremendous effort for the world to honour its pledge to end hunger by 2030,” and called for food production to be more inclusive, efficient, resilient, and sustainable.

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