Home Challenging Poverty COVID-19; HUNGER, COMBINE TO PUT THE WORLD IN TROUBLE – World Health...

COVID-19; HUNGER, COMBINE TO PUT THE WORLD IN TROUBLE – World Health Organisation; World Food Programme cry out

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  • As more go hungry and malnutrition persists, achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 in doubt, UN report warns
  • Securing healthy diets for the billions who cannot afford them would save trillions in costs
  • It’s going to get worse and worse and worse – World Food Programme
  • But it does not have to be this way. Every single leader, every single government and every single person can do their bit to break chains of transmission and end the collective suffering. I am not saying it’s easy; it’s clearly not. I know that many leaders are working in difficult circumstances. I know that there are other health, economic, social and cultural challenges to weigh up. Just today, the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World was published, which estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019.
  • Yesterday, 230,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO.
  • Almost 80% of those cases were reported from just 10 countries, and 50% come from just two countries.
  • Although the number of daily deaths remains relatively stable, there is a lot to be concerned about.

But this is going to require three things:

  • First, a focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission.
  • Second, an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other.
  • And third, we need strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently
  • It can be done. It must be done. I have said it before and I will keep saying it. No matter where a country is in its epidemic curve, it is never too late to take decisive action. Implement the basics and work with community leaders and all stakeholders to deliver clear public health messages.
  • We weren’t prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now.
  • Together, we must accelerate the science as quickly as possible, find joint solutions to COVID-19 and through solidarity build a cohesive global response.
  • Science, solutions and solidarity.

More people are going hungry, an annual study by the United Nations has found. Tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition. The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published today, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years. High costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously.

The hungry are most numerous in Asia, but expanding fastest in Africa. Across the planet, the report forecasts, the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. (Flare-ups of acute hunger in the pandemic context may see this number escalate further at times.) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. It is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Writing in the Foreword, the heads of the five agencies warn 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.”

The hunger numbers explained In this edition, critical data updates for China and other populous countriesii have led to a substantial cut in estimates of the global number of hungry people, to the current 690 million. Nevertheless, there has been no change in the trend. Revising the entire hunger series back to the year 2000 yields the same conclusion: after steadily diminishing for decades, chronic hunger slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so. Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished (381 million). Africa is second (250 million), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million). The global prevalence of undernourishment – or overall percentage of hungry people – has changed little at 8.9 percent, but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014. This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population. This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent)  On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry.

The pandemic’s toll 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. iii The setback throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

Unhealthy diets, food insecurity and malnutrition Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms (including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about 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 report presents evidence that a healthy diet costs far more than US$ 1.90/day, the international poverty threshold. It puts the price of even the least expensive healthy diet at five times the price of filling stomachs with starch only. Nutrient-rich dairy, fruits, vegetables and protein-rich foods (plant and animal-sourced) are the most expensive food groups globally.

The latest estimates are that a staggering 3 billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57 per cent of the population – though no region, including North America and Europe, is spared. Partly as a result, the race to end malnutrition appears compromised. According to the report, in 2019, between a quarter and a third of children under five (191 million) were stunted or wasted – too short or too thin. Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own right.

A call to action The report argues that once sustainability considerations are factored in, a global switch to healthy diets would help check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings. It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030, to be almost entirely offset; while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion, could be cut by up to three-quarters

  1. The report urges the transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. While the specific solutions will differ from country to country, and even within them, the overall answers lie with interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the food environment, and in the political economy that shapes trade, public expenditure and investment policies.

The study calls on governments to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture; work to cut cost-escalating factors in the production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing of food – including by reducing inefficiencies and food loss and waste; support local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods, and secure their access to markets; prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behaviour change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies. The heads of the five UN agencies behind the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World declare their commitment to support this momentous shift, ensuring that it unfolds “in a sustainable way, for people and the planet.”

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19  Yesterday, 230,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported to WHO. Almost 80% of those cases were reported from just 10 countries, and 50% come from just two countries. Although the number of daily deaths remains relatively stable, there is a lot to be concerned about. All countries are at risk of the virus, as you know, but not all countries have been affected in the same way. There are roughly four situations playing out across the world at the moment. The first situation is countries that were alert and aware – they prepared and responded rapidly and effectively to the first cases. As a result, they have so far avoided large outbreaks. Several countries in the Mekong region, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Africa fit into that category.

Leaders of those countries took command of the emergency and communicated effectively with their populations about the measures that had to be taken. They pursued a comprehensive strategy to find, isolate, test and care for cases, and to trace and quarantine contacts and were able to suppress the virus. The second situation is countries in which there was a major outbreak that was brought under control through a combination of strong leadership and populations adhering to key public health measures. Many countries in Europe and elsewhere have demonstrated that it is possible to bring large outbreaks under control. In both of these first two situations, where countries have effectively suppressed the virus, leaders are opening up their societies on a data-driven, step-by-step basis, with a comprehensive public health approach, backed by a strong health workforce and community buy-in.

The third situation we’re seeing is countries that overcame the first peak of the outbreak, but has eased restrictions, are now struggling with new peaks and accelerating cases. In several countries across the world, we are now seeing dangerous increases in cases, and hospital wards filling up again. It would appear that many countries are losing gains made as proven measures to reduce risk are not implemented or followed. The fourth situation is those countries that are in the intense transmission phase of their outbreak. We’re seeing this across the Americas, South Asia, and several countries in Africa.

The epicentre of the virus remains in the Americas, where more than 50% of the world’s cases have been recorded.  But we know from the first two situations that it’s never too late to bring the virus under control, even if there’s been explosive transmission. In some cities and regions where transmission is intense, severe restrictions have been reinstated to bring the outbreak under control. WHO is committed to working with all countries and all people to suppress transmission, reduce mortality, support communities to protect themselves and others, and support strong government leadership and coordination.

Let me blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction. The virus remains public enemy number one, but the actions of many governments and people do not reflect this. The only aim of the virus is to find people to infect. Mixed messages from leaders are undermining the most critical ingredient of any response: trust.   If governments do not clearly communicate with their citizens and roll out a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives; If populations do not follow the basic public health principles of physical distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, coughing etiquette and staying at home when sick; If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go.

It’s going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way. Every single leader, every single government and every single person can do their bit to break chains of transmission and end the collective suffering. I am not saying it’s easy; it’s clearly not. I know that many leaders are working in difficult circumstances. I know that there are other health, economic, social and cultural challenges to weigh up. Just today, the latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World was published, which estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019.

While it’s too soon to assess the full impact of COVID-19, the report estimates that 130 million more people may face chronic hunger by the end of this year. There are no shortcuts out of this pandemic. We all hope there will be an effective vaccine, but we need to focus on using the tools we have now to suppress transmission and save lives. We need to reach a sustainable situation where we have adequate control of this virus without shutting down our lives entirely or lurching from lockdown to lockdown; which has a hugely detrimental impact on societies. I want to be straight with you: there will be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future. But there is a roadmap to a situation where we can control the disease and get on with our lives.

 But this is going to require three things:

  • First, a focus on reducing mortality and suppressing transmission.
  • Second, an empowered, engaged community that takes individual behaviour measures in the interest of each other.
  • And third, we need strong government leadership and coordination of comprehensive strategies that are communicated clearly and consistently.
  • It can be done. It must be done. I have said it before and I will keep saying it.
  • No matter where a country is in its epidemic curve, it is never too late to take decisive action.
  • Implement the basics and work with community leaders and all stakeholders to deliver clear public health messages.
  • We weren’t prepared collectively, but we must use all the tools we have to bring this pandemic under control. And we need to do it right now.
  • Together, we must accelerate the science as quickly as possible, find joint solutions to COVID-19 and through solidarity build a cohesive global response.
  • Science, solutions and solidarity.