#Editorial

Alarm as covid-19 set to almost double acute hunger by end of 2020

May 22, 2020, 11:49 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic will see more than a quarter of a billion people suffering acute hunger by the end of the year, according to new figures from the World Food Programme (WFP).

Latest numbers indicate the lives and livelihoods of 265 million people in low and middle-income countries will be under severe threat unless swift action is taken to tackle the pandemic, up from a current 135 million.

That is nearly double the number in the newly published Global Report on Food Crises 2020, which estimates that 135 million people in 55 countries currently face acute hunger as a result chiefly of conflict, the effects of climate change, and economic crises. That report was drawn up prior to the emergence of COVID-19 as a pandemic, and the contrasting figures provide a startling insight into the devastating potential of this virus.

Concern is highest for those in countries across Africa as well as the Middle East, as the virus threatens lives and livelihoods along with the trading networks they rely on for survival.

The greatest worry is for people living in conflict zones and those forced from their homes and into refugee camps, with countries of concern including northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Poor nutrition and resulting weak immunity leaves children especially vulnerable, while crowded camps can be fertile ground for a rampant contagion such as COVID-19.

The effects on trade flows that provide a lifeline to millions of people could be equally devastating. Sub-Saharan African countries such as Somalia and South Sudan imported more than 40 million tons of cereals from around the world in 2018 to plug gaps in local food production. This leaves them extremely vulnerable to risks such as price swings during a global crisis. At the same time, countries including Angola and Nigeria will suffer as their fuel exports are hit hard.

A Guest Editorial

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