The recently released 2020 Global Hunger Index reports that ChadTimor-LesteMadagascar, and Haiti currently have the highest levels of hunger in the world.  Venezuela also stands out as having increasing hunger since 2000.  However, AngolaEthiopia, and Sierra Leone, where civil war was previously a strong driver of hunger and undernutrition, have experienced dramatic improvements since 2000.

Published every year since 2006, the index indicates that, overall, the world has made promising progress toward eliminating hunger.  According to the United Nations, global poverty rates have been cut by more than half since 2000, and have decreased continuously over the course of the last two centuries. This is a remarkable achievement.

However, there is no doubt that Covid 19 will increase extreme poverty due to economic shutdowns/lockdowns.  According to the World Bank:

“Under the baseline scenario we estimate that COVID-19 will push 71 million into extreme poverty, measured at the international poverty line of $1.90 per day.” 

David Beasley, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, said in a report released on 9 November that the socio-economic impact of the pandemic is more devastating than the disease itself:

“Many people in low- and middle-income countries, who a few months ago were poor but just about getting by, now find their livelihoods have been destroyed,”

The 2020 Global Hunger Index Report also warns:

“The pandemic is also affecting nutrition—for example, schools have been shuttered at various points in 2020, preventing access to nutritious meals for children in many cases.

Furthermore, given the established connections between gross domestic product (GDP) growth and food security—and, conversely, GDP contraction and food insecurity—the global economic recession resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic could leave up to 80 million additional people undernourished in net food-importing countries alone.

…Nearly 130,000 additional child deaths associated with this spike in child wasting and pandemic-induced reductions in nutrition and health services could also occur (Headey et al. 2020).”

As I recently wrote, migrant workers are some of the worst hit by the economic fallout of the pandemic. Without sustained income, there could be a temporary drop in remittances that provide income for around 800 million – or one in nine – people in the world. 

This represents millions of children who are unable to grow to their full potential, physically or developmentally. 

As the world faces further health and economic crisis, the report highlights “persistence, collective effort, and the dedication of sufficient resources” as key. 

Investing money in locally owned, small-scale farms has been found to be one effective solution.  In papers published concurrently on October 12 in four journals, as part of Ceres2030: Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger, researchers and librarians reviewed more than 200 journal articles.  The results indicated that educating small-scale farmers and encouraging formal farmer groups and co-operatives is an effective solution. It also encourages natural resource management, improved food security and helps the environment. 

The results are heartening because ground level initiatives such as these also achieve more general growth of people and communities, and the ownership, local knowledge, human connection and self-esteem that comes with co-operation and self-sufficiency.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...