Hunger has been rising since 2014, due to conflict, economic shocks, and weather extremes. According to the FAO, 688 million people were hungry in 2019, compared to 624 million in 2014.
The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened food insecurity by disrupting supply chains. Together with currency depreciation and other factors, this in turn has driven up the prices of staples such as wheat and maize. Global agricultural commodity prices are 40% higher now than in January 2020, a recent World Bank report said.
At the same time, the pandemic has upended livelihoods, eliminated jobs, and slashed incomes, leaving more and more people unable to buy food for their families. As a result, the number of people facing “acute food insecurity” – defined as when a person’s life or livelihood is in immediate danger because of lack of food – is poised to double to 272 million people according to the United Nations World Food Programme.
The World Bank is working with countries around the world to ensure food systems continue to function despite COVID-19’s challenges, and to help improve food security for the most vulnerable people now and in the future, the report said.
“Addressing food insecurity requires actions to ensure that people get sufficient, nutritious food in the near and long-term,” says Martien van Nieuwkoop, Global Director of Agriculture and Food. “Social safety nets and livelihood support programs can boost food security for vulnerable people as they cope with and rebuild from COVID-19’s devastating impacts. But we also need actions to transform the food system so that it can support healthy people, as well as a healthy planet and healthy economies for decades to come.”
The World Bank said it is working with the Afghanistan government to help 6.8 million Afghan people at risk of acute food insecurity. It is also supporting farmers in the Kyrgyz Republic, Haiti, and Cambodia.