Hunger swelled in Asia due to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of hungry people in Asia-Pacific. A report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) revealed that food security and nutrition in Asia has worsened. Findings revealed more than 375 million people in the region faced hunger in 2020, an increase of 54 million over the previous year. And as the number of the hungry increased, so too has inadequate access to nutritious foods. The report said more than one billion people in the region did not have adequate food in 2020 – an increase of almost 150 million people in just one year. The high cost of a healthy diet, and persistently high levels of poverty and income inequality, continue to hold healthy diets out of reach for 1.8 billion people in the Asia-Pacific region. And this negative trend was worsened by the pandemic.
However, the report said the grim situation could have been worse without the response of governments and the "impressive social protection measures" they put in place during the crisis. In building back better food environments, future agri-food systems will have to provide better production and nutrition, said FAO and UNICEF.
The two agencies said the focus must revolve around meeting the needs of small-scale, family farmers and indigenous people in the region. Food systems must also prioritise the dietary needs of vulnerable groups, including young children and women. And on this note, commitments have been made to ensure recovery. For example, new opportunities can begin the hard work of advancing food security and nutrition by transforming agri-food systems through sessions such as the United Nations Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition for Growth Summit, and the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). Implementing these commitments will be needed to meet the second Sustainable Development Goal, SDG2, to eradicate food insecurity and malnutrition, the report concluded.

(Image from Unsplash)

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