The looming global food shortage

The neo-crown pneumonia epidemic is raging, the global public health system is overwhelmed, and the world economy is in turmoil. As the epidemic spreads, the fuse of the global food crisis is on the verge of igniting. The epidemic is causing job losses, supply chain disruptions, and economic problems around the world, and decades of hard-won gains by the United Nations against poverty and hunger are now in danger of being destroyed, sending millions of people to the brink of starvation. The world and its institutions must act decisively to avert a catastrophe, otherwise poverty and hunger will plunge the world into a protracted crisis like an epidemic.

As Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), I warned the United Nations Security Council in April of this year of an impending “global famine”. The impact of the economic crisis caused by the neo-crowning pneumonia epidemic is global, and all countries are prioritizing the interests of their own people, but a fragmented world without common goals will create more problems. Our common goal should be to defeat the neo-crowning virus and, drawing on the experience gained in the global fight against poverty and hunger over the past three decades, to prevent a global famine as a result of the epidemic.

The timing of this global epidemic is delicate. While the neo-crowning virus has slowed the pace of poverty reduction in some countries and regions, in general, the world’s impressive gains against poverty and hunger had already begun to slow down before the epidemic. Over the past three decades, the incidence of absolute poverty has halved globally, from 2 billion in 1990 to 700 million in 2015, based on the growth of private enterprise combined with the building of social security systems and other factors, and the incidence of hunger has fallen by 25 percent over the same period. But over the past four years, the number of people who go to bed hungry every day and face chronic hunger has risen again, from 796 million to 821 million. The number of people who would otherwise have enough food for a full belly, who are suddenly left without food, has also risen by 70 percent in the past four years, from 80 million to 135 million. Today, about 1 billion people worldwide are suffering from chronic or sudden hunger.

Regional conflicts are the main cause of the rise in hunger, with 60% of hungry people living in war-torn countries such as Syria and Yemen, where years of war have worsened the situation by spreading famine. Climate change is another major cause of hunger, and in countries such as Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the combination of extreme weather and conflict is exacerbating food insecurity.

Poverty is compounded by the neo-crowning pneumonia epidemic, which is expected to double the number of people suffering from hunger to 265 million by the end of 2020. According to the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, an additional 300 million people will be undernourished and lack sufficient vitamins and minerals in their diets to stay healthy.

The neo-crown pneumonia epidemic is hitting economies around the world hard, with low-income countries that are already unable to cope with a pandemic suffering the most, while countries that had booming economies before the outbreak are gradually starting to feel the pain as the epidemic spreads. Hardest hit are countries that rely on raw material exports such as Nigeria, South Sudan and Zambia; tourist countries such as the Gambia and Jordan; and countries that rely on remittances from overseas workers to support a significant portion of their gross domestic product such as Haiti and Nepal. The worldwide embargo has already cost many workers their jobs, and as the embargo lengthens, the situation will get worse without the further underwriting of social security.

The sharp contraction of the world economy has hit the global poor the hardest. The United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (WIDER) suggests that a 5 percent reduction in global GDP would push 85 million people into absolute poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day), which would also lead to food insecurity as well as hunger. A 10% reduction in global GDP would push 180 million people into absolute poverty.

Famine often occurs not because of a lack of food, but because of spikes in food prices due to hyperinflation, or supply chain collapses that leave people in some places without timely access to food. Even during World War II, global supply chains functioned normally, yet the neo-coronary pandemic disrupted the supply chains of food and other vital commodities between and within countries – not only was it difficult to transport commodities from one country to another, but regional shipments of commodities within countries became The challenge is enormous. The situation is a deadly blow to sub-Saharan Africa, a region that needs to import 40 million tons of grain from around the world every year to fill the gap in food production.

Ten countries, including Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo, each with more than a million people already hovering on the brink of starvation, and international humanitarian agencies have recently been trying to get food to the dying people as quickly as possible. In the long term, the neo-coronary pneumonia epidemic could trigger famine in as many as 35 countries, including Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and Haiti.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is already providing food assistance to some 100 million people, of which some 30 million people at risk depend on WFP assistance. Without WFP food aid, 300,000 people, mainly in war-torn countries, would starve to death every day for the next three months.

Food crises, like regional conflicts, can trigger social instability such as refugees fleeing across borders, turning otherwise fragile areas into potential points of conflict. The WFP study found that for every percentage point increase in the incidence of hunger in the target study countries, the number of refugees fleeing the country increases by two percentage points.

Not since the end of World War II has the world experienced a global crisis of this scale and magnitude, with tens of millions of people contracting epidemics and hundreds of thousands of people losing their lives. Millions of people around the world had been lifted out of poverty and hunger, and that development could be wiped out by the epidemic. Developed countries have implemented trillions of dollars of stimulus measures to promote the development of their economies, and have achieved good results. At the same time, it was necessary to increase donations to international institutions and extend a helping hand to developing countries to help them tide over their difficulties. International lending institutions should provide support to developing countries during and after the epidemic and strengthen their cooperation in the areas of public health, education and social security to help millions of small and medium-sized enterprise owners (such as hoteliers, shopkeepers, tour guides and taxi drivers), who have lost all sources of income to support their families during the epidemic, to overcome their difficulties.

Governments of developing countries that receive international assistance can help people through the crisis by providing cash grants to families in need. The World Food Programme is working with the Transitional Government of Sudan to protect people in extreme poverty through family support programmes.

Combating the famine pandemic and eradicating poverty and hunger required not only greater public investment in social protection but also increased direct investment by private enterprises and public-private partnerships between the Government and social capital in sectors such as agriculture. A joint study by the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) estimates that an additional investment of $265 billion per year – just 0.3 per cent of global income – could fully eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030. Hunger. This enormous amount of money can be raised if wealthy countries, institutions and individuals are fully mobilized.

Personally, I remain optimistic, despite the alarming rise in the global number of people suffering from hunger as a result of the neo-crown pneumonia pandemic. As Executive Director of the World Food Programme, I have regularly called on global leaders to support our mission, and have received a positive response in support of the humanitarian generosity that needs to involve many more people in many more countries. The decades-long global battle against poverty and hunger will not end, and now is the time to rise to the challenge of the new coronary pneumonia epidemic without surrender.