The United Nations defines a food emergency as “an extraordinary situation in which people are unable to meet their basic survival needs, or there are serious and immediate threats to human life and well-being.” Humanity is imminently facing such a situation: an emergency of unknown proportions but, probably, very large, due to the impact of COVID-19 and the mitigation measures applied. Not only are they the more than 400,000 deaths it has already left in the world; in the field of food it also causes havoc: up to 270 million people can end the year in a situation of acute hunger, that is, with absolutely nothing to put in their mouths. They are double the 135 million that were registered before the pandemic.
Humanity was not doing very well before the arrival of the virus, as the latest records suggest that we already counted with more than 821 million hungry, that is, men, women and children who at the end of the day go to sleep without having consumed the necessary calories to be healthy. Now, the new coronavirus puts us on the ropes.
This Tuesday, the UN Secretary General published the report ICovid-19 impact on food security and nutrition, with a series of recommended and recommended policies to deal with this threat, and in it has warned that the combined effects of COVID-19 with mitigation measures and the emerging global recession could, without a coordinated large-scale action, disrupt the functioning of food systems.
Such an interruption can have consequences for health and nutrition of a severity and scale never seen for more than half a century, warns the body. “Our food systems are failing, and the pandemic is making things even worse. Unless action is taken immediately, it is increasingly clear that there will be an impending global food emergency that could have long-term repercussions for hundreds of millions of people. children and adults, “said the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, during the presentation of these policies at the headquarters of the international organization in New York. In his statement, he warned that even in countries where food is abundant there are risks of disruptions in the supply chain.
Safeguarding access to safe and nutritious food is recommended, particularly for young children, pregnant women and infants
To highlight the urgency to act decisively, the UN has recalled and listed a string of data, in addition to the general figure of chronically hungry and extremely hungry (acute) already mentioned. See, among others: world economic production is going to be reduced by 8.5 billion dollars in the next two years; 49 million people will fall into extreme poverty, half in sub-Saharan Africa, and remittances will decline by 20% in 2020, representing a loss of $ 110 billion in resources available to buy food and meet other needs of families in migrants.
“The pandemic is attacking us from every angle. It has exposed dangerous deficiencies in our systems and actively threatens the lives and livelihoods of people around the world, including the more than one billion who are employed in the various food industries.” , he recalled, for his part, Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.
Childhood represents a separate chapter. Last year, 144 million girls and boys were stunted, that is, more than one in five worldwide. As of May 2020, 368 million students had lost access to school meals, on which they depend for a large part of their daily nutritional needs. It should also be borne in mind that every one percentage point drop in global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) means that 0.7 million more girls and boys will be stunted. Also, Unicef alerted in May that the pandemic can cause an increase in child malnutrition to 9.4 million affected and made an international appeal for 1.6 billion dollars to meet the needs created by the pandemic.
User manual to overcome the food crisis
To avoid reaching or worsening these figures, the UN recommends a series of policies that encourage looking beyond the short term, which we list below. “While countries around the world must prioritize access to healthy food, nutrition, and aid for the poor as the crisis intensifies, we must also make decisions that build the world we want to live in on the other side of the crisis. Kalibata advises. Thus, the report reaches three clear conclusions: first, we must mobilize now and focus our attention on where the risk is greatest; second, we must strengthen social protection systems and third, we must “invest in the future, and not in the past,” in the words of Secretary General Guterres.
1. Mobilizing now means that governments must designate food services as essential and apply the protections that are necessary for workers in this sector, continue with humanitarian assistance in the form of food, take it to countries suffering from food crises, intensify support to local processing, transportation and markets, to keep commercial corridors open and to meet the liquidity needs of small producers
2. On how to strengthen social protection systems, it is recommended to safeguard access to safe and nutritious food, in particular for young children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and other risk groups, and adapt and Expand social protection programs to serve nutritionally at-risk groups, including supporting children who no longer have access to school meals.
3. By “investing in the future”, the UN refers to the need to build a more inclusive and sustainable world by creating food systems that better serve the needs of producers and workers in the food sector, providing more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food in order to eradicate hunger, and rebalancing the relationship between these systems and the natural environment. “By doing these and other things, as outlined in today’s report, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and nutrition, and we can do it in ways that support the transition as well. green that is urgent to carry out “, concluded Guterres.