Agri Business

‘Global hunger was at 5-yr high last year’

Our Commodities Desk Chennai | Updated on May 05, 2021

Indians not among the 150 m people who faced ‘acute food insecurity’: FAO

About 155 million people in 55 countries faced acute food insecurity and extreme hunger globally last year due to food crises relating to Covid-19 along with extreme weather conditions, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Wednesday.

In its annual report launched by Global Network Against Food Crises – an alliance of the UN, EU and non-governmental organisations working to tackle food crises, FAO said that the number of those who faced acute food insecurity hit a 5-year high last year.

India does not figure in the list of countries in which people face food security. Last year when the Covid pandemic broke out, a hue and cry was raised, mainly by the opposition, over immigrants returning on foot to their homes. The Union Government was charged with allowing them to starve on their return. However, the Centre allocated 10 kg of foodgrains (wheat or rice) under the PM Garib Kalyan Yojana free of cost from April to November. India, which has surplus foodgrain stocks, utilised 10 million tonnes of foodgrains to take care of the below poverty line people who were rendered jobless due to Covid last year.

Up 20 million

The report said that the number of those who faced food insecurity increased by about 20 million from 2019. “It raises a start warning about a worrisome trend: acute food security has kept up its relentless rise since 2017,” the FAO said. Of the 155 million, 1.33 lakh were classified as the most severe cases of food insecurity last year and they were from Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen, “where urgent action was needed to avert widespread death and a collapse of livelihoods”.

Another 28 million people faced Emergency just a step away from starvation in 38 countries, where urgent action saved lives and livelihoods, thus preventing the spread of famine, it said. In the last five year, 39 countries have experienced food crises with the population affected by food insecurity rising to 147 million from 94 million between 2016 and 2020.

Affected children

The report said that in these 55 countries that faced food crises, over 75 million children under five were stunted and over 15 million too thin.

African nations were “disproportionally” affected by the acute food insecurity with close to 98 million people suffering. However, other parts of the world such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria and Haiti were among the top ten nations to face food crises in 2020.

Key reasons

While conflicts were the main reason to push more people to face food insecurity, Covid created economic shocks besides weather anomalies. Conflicts were the main reason for about 100 million people facing food scarcity, up from 77 million in 2019. Economic shocks affected another 40 million (24 million in 2019).

The one comforting factor with regard to food crises was that the people affected by weather anomalies were 15 million last year compared with 34 million the previous year.

2021 outlook

In its outlook for this year, the FAO report said conflicts would be the major cause for food crises, while containment measures and weather-related problems will exacerbate food insecurity in fragile economies.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the fragility of the global food system and the need for more equitable, sustainable and resilient systems to nutritiously and consistently feed 8.5 billion people by 2030. A radical transformation of our agri-food systems is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” the Global Network Against Food Crises alliance said in a joint statement.

“The protracted nature of most food crises shows that long-term environmental, social and economic trends compounded by increasing conflict and insecurity are eroding the resilience of agri-food systems. If current trends are not reversed, food crises will increase in frequency and severity,” the alliance added.

Published on May 05, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor