Global Report on Food Crises

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    29th Apr, 2020

The annual report of acute food security and malnutrition ‘Global Report on Food Crises’ has revealed the scope of food crises as COVID-19 poses new risks to vulnerable countries.

Context

The annual report of acute food security and malnutrition ‘Global Report on Food Crises’ has revealed the scope of food crises as COVID-19 poses new risks to vulnerable countries.

Background:

  • In India, millions of informal and migrant labourers lost their livelihoods overnight when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ordered a national lockdown.
  • Many governments around the world have put their populations on lockdown causing severe slow-downs in international trade and food supply chains.
  • Panic buying by people going into confinement has already demonstrated the fragility of supply chains as supermarket shelves emptied in many countries.
  • Without wages or access to government programmes, many workers are unable to eat. 
  • Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020.
  • This emerging crisis is unlike regional problems caused by political or military strife. It is not local storm damage. It is a global emergency and it does not hit all of us equally. The poor lose more.

Analysis

  • Key findings of the Global Report

    • The report by the Global Network Against Food Crisesindicates that at the close of 2019, 135 million people across 55 countries and territories experienced acute food insecurity* (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above).
    • Additionally, in the 55 food-crisis countries covered by the report, 75 million children were stunted and 17 million suffered from wasting in 2019.
    • This is the highest level of acute food insecurity* and malnutrition documented by the Network since the first edition of the report in 2017.
    • Additionally, in 2019, 183 million people were classified in Stressed (IPC/CH Phase 2) condition -- at the cusp of acute hunger and at risk of slipping into Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) if faced with a shock or stressor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • More than half (73 million) of the 135 million people covered by the report live in Africa; 43 million live in the Middle East and Asia; 18.5 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    • Key-drivers: The key drivers behind the trends analysed in the report were:
      • conflict, (the key factor that pushed 77 million people into acute food insecurity)
      • weather extremes (34 million people)
      • economic turbulence (24 million)

About the Global Network

  • The Global Network against Food Crises seeks to better link, integrate and guide existing initiatives, partnerships, programmes and policy processes to sustainably address the root causes of food crises.
  • The Global Report on Food Crises is the flagship publication of the Global Network and is facilitated by the Food Security Information Network(FSIN).
  • The Report is the result of a consensus-based and multi-partner analytical process involving 16 international humanitarian and development partners.

The situation in India:

  • As per the Global Hunger Report 2019, India’s position in the index is 102 out of 117 countries. Neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh are better than India in this index.
  • Undernourishment: The portion of undernourished in the population is 14.5 percent.
  • Stunting:9 percent children under five years are stunted and 20.8 percent children under 5 year are wasted.
  • Anaemia: Another serious food related issue is anaemia. More than 50 percent of women and children are struggling with anaemia. 
  • Cardiovascular disease: Another study regarding diet related deaths by Lancet shows 310 deaths per one lakh in 2017. In 2016, 28.1 percent of the total deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases.  Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading cause for deaths due to lack of a complete diet.
  • Poor nutritional quality: According to the National Sample Survey, 68 percent population of rural India are not able to access 2200 calories (benchmark nutritional norms to define poverty) in 2011-12 and 65 percent of the urban population are not able to consume 2100 calories in same year. This data shows that India’s condition is bad as it is and that lockdown will only worsen the health condition of people further.
  • Lack of availability of food: Availability of food is another pertinent problem in India. Per person food absorption has been declining slowly after economic reforms in the country.

How COVID-19 is worsening the situation?

  • Already, India is struggling with severe hunger problems, the lockdown will push further deprivation amongst the people.
  • Workers think that they will die of hunger before the virus kills them.
  • While historically, hunger and poverty has been used as tools of ‘disciplining’ a population, civil society as an institution to criticise policies and demand rectification also has its hand tied because of the lockdown.
  • Most media outlets are far from responsible journalism and are busy communalising the pandemic.
  • Workers are scattered, scrambling to make ends meet and there is literally no way for activists to come out and protest against the enormity of injustice with the poor.

What is acute food security?

  • Acute food insecurity is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger.
  • It draws on internationally accepted measures of extreme hunger, such as:
    • the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)
    • the Cadre Harmonise
  • It is more severe than / not the same as chronic hunger, as reported on each year by the UN’s annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World
  • Chronic hunger is when a person is unable to consume enough food over an extended period to maintain a normal, active lifestyle.

Important terms:

  • Hunger: It is a short-term physical discomfort as a result of chronic food shortage, or in severe cases, a life-threatening lack of food.
  • World hunger: Hunger aggregated to the global level. Related terms include food insecurity and malnutrition. 
  • Malnutrition: It is a condition resulting from insufficient intake of biologically necessary nutrients.

What causes Hunger?

Worldwide, the number of hungry people has dropped significantly over the past two decades, but 821 million people continue to struggle with hunger every day. Many factors contribute to the state of hunger, the reasons are complex and varied, and often interconnected.

  • Poverty: Poverty is the main cause of hunger in the world. This is true in rich and poor countries alike. It is true no matter whether people live in urban or rural areas.
  • Job Instability: Hunger is mainly caused by poverty that results from a lack of jobs or because jobs pay too little. Hunger rates rise when the national or local economy is in a slump. People lose jobs and cannot find work. Once the economy improves some people continue to struggle to find work.
  • Food Shortages and Waste: Food shortages in developing countries are common. The people most affected are smallholder farmers and their families who depend on their own surplus to survive between harvests. Another reason for food shortages is up to 40 percent of food grown in some countries is spoilage. Smallholder farmers do not have adequate storage facilities to protect their supplies against pests and weather.
  • Poor infrastructure: Poor infrastructure causes hunger by making it difficult, sometimes impossible, to transport food to areas of a country where there are shortages.
  • Unstable Markets: People who live on $1.90 per day spend most of their income on food. Under stable conditions they can scarcely afford enough food to protect themselves and family members against hunger. Any fluctuation that pushes food prices up creates additional hardship.
  • Nutritional Quality: All people who are hungry are malnourished. They are not getting enough protein, so they lose weight and in severe cases their bodies begin wasting. Another form of malnutrition is known as “hidden hunger,” and it has more to do with the quality of food than the quantity.
  • Discrimination: Progress against hunger and poverty seldom happens without economic growth in countries, but economic growth alone does not ensure that prosperity is broadly shared. Every country, regardless of its wealth, has discrimination woven into its social fabric. Disadvantaged groups tend to be left the furthest behind. 
  • Climate Change: Despite having contributed little to cause climate change, the poorest developing countries are already experiencing the effects. Climate change is damaging food and water security in significant ways.
  • War and Conflict: Hunger is both a cause and effect of war and conflict. Wide-scale poverty and hunger lead to frustration and resentment with governments that appear to ignore hungry people’s plight. 

Conclusion:

The pandemic has sparked not only a health emergency, but a global economic rout, with businesses struggling to survive, millions left jobless, and millions more facing starvation.

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