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Fruits, vegetables most expensive as COVID-19 exposes 130m to chronic hunger


A new United Nations survey has found fruits, vegetables as well as dairy and protein foods as most expensive, even as it revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic could push 130 million more persons into chronic hunger by the end of this year across the globe.

The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published yesterday, predicted that Africa would be home to more than half of world’s chronically hungry by 2030. It feared that as more go starving, and malnutrition persists, achieving the Zero Hunger target in the next decade was doubtful.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending starvation and undernourishment. It is produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organisation (WHO).


According to the report, tens of millions have joined the ranks of constantly undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with forms of underfeeding.

The publication estimated that almost 690 million people went famished in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018 – and by nearly 60 million in five years. High costs and low affordability also meant that billions could not eat healthily or nutritiously. The ravenous are most in Asia, but fast expanding into Africa.

Writing in the foreword, heads of the five global agencies regretted that, “five years after the world committed to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off track to achieve this objective by 2030.”

On the ravaging virus, the document noted: “As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems – understood as all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution and consumption of food.”

“While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19. The setback throws into further doubt the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).”

The analysis pointed out that that overcoming lack and famine in every aspect, including under-nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity, is more than securing enough food to survive: what people eat – and especially what children eat – must also be nutritious. Yet a key obstacle is the high cost of nutritious foods, and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families.

The investigation presented evidence that a healthy diet costs far more than the international poverty threshold of $1.90 daily. It puts the price of even the least expensive rich meal at five times the price of filling stomachs with starch only.


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