The impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt in all aspects of life. Global food insecurity has increased in almost every country through 2020, and the trends continue to look bleak into 2021. With no tangible solution in sight, many wonder what, if anything, can be done to actually prevent further international starvation.
Governments Plan to Reduce World Hunger
Pre-pandemic, hunger was already on the rise. In 2000, leaders around the world joined the UN and civil society to try ‘to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger’ by 2015. The world had since made huge leaps. Hunger rates internationally started to decrease in 2000-2004, but again, in 2014, the world began to see an increase. By 2019, 64 million more people went malnourished, with the worldwide hunger count rising from 624 million to 688 million.
Hunger now affects 8.9% of the global population. This alarming statistic was only worsened by COVID-19 by disrupting any progress made. The UN World Food Program (WFP) estimates that COVID-19 has led to roughly 272 million people being at risk of, or already having, acute food insecurity.
COVID-19 Causes Supply Chain Challenges
Agricultural Commodity Price Index is at its highest since 2013, increasing by 35% since January 2020. Sharp increases in prices reflect high demand in the world, along with COVID-19 causing supply discrepancies that further impact the supply and demand relationship. Price increases of traditionally cheap commodities, such as cereal, have further led households to have to cut down in quantity and quality.
Not having access to food – whether because of low supply or unaffordability – is a leading cause of hunger as well as shifts in social, political, demographical, societal, economical, and environmental sectors.
In a rapid survey conducted by the World Bank, 48 countries showed a significant amount of people running out of food or greatly reducing food consumption. But why is this the case if there is enough food produced on the planet to feed everyone? As the coronavirus spread across the world, it interfered with the transportation and processing of food. International lockdowns made it difficult to transport products and workers were unable to work in fields, which led to a surplus of rotten, inedible food.
Costs Increase, Incomes Decrease
With a decrease in supply and an increase in panic-buying across the world, prices surged for staple products like rice and wheat. Simultaneously, unemployment hit staggering rates, leading to substantial decreases in household incomes. The unfortunate combination of higher prices and lower incomes resulted in many people being unable to afford basic necessities, primarily food.
Regions where economies heavily depend on tourism are experiencing extremely negative effects of COVID-19, with currency devaluations and economic downfalls.
What Can We Do to Help?
In this ostensibly hopeless situation, though, there are still actions that can be taken to redirect the trajectory of world hunger. Donate to food banks. Get involved with charities that work towards providing resources to those who struggle with food insecurity. Even seemingly small contributions can make big impacts over time. World hunger, as difficult and depressing as it can be to deal with, will not resolve itself. It needs people who care and who will fight for bettering societies internationally.