Hunger – Main Side Effect of Covid-19

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By Sue-Ann Wayow

THE main side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be hunger as up to a tenth of world’s population – an approximate 811 million people were malnourished in 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says children were paying a high price.

In a joint media statement on Monday with the United Nations, WHO stated, “There was a dramatic worsening of world hunger in 2020… The world is not on track to achieve targets for any nutrition indicators by 2030.”

This year’s edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the first global assessment of its kind in the pandemic era.

The report was jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and WHO.

Previous editions had already put the world on notice that the food security of millions, many children among them was at stake. “Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of people around the world,” the heads of the five UN agencies write in this year’s Foreword.

The statistics

WHO stated, “Already in the mid-2010s, hunger had started creeping upwards, dashing hopes of irreversible decline. Disturbingly, in 2020 hunger shot up in both absolute and proportional terms, outpacing population growth: some 9.9 percent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 percent in 2019.”

More than half of all undernourished people  about 418 million live in Asia, more than a third-282 million in Africa and a smaller proportion of 60 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, WHO stated.

“But the sharpest rise in hunger was in Africa, where the estimated prevalence of undernourishment  at 21 percent of the population  is more than double that of any other region,” WHO stated.

WHO added that more than 2.3 billion people or 30% of the global population lacked all year round access to adequate food.

Shanic May 2021 edited latest to use

Children paying a high price

WHO stated, “Malnutrition persisted in all its forms, with children paying a high price.”

In 2020, over 149 million under-fives were estimated to have been stunted, or too short for their age, more than 45 million – wasted or too thin for their height and nearly 39 million – overweight.


Globally, despite progress in some areas more infants were being fed exclusively on breast milk.

WHO stated that three billion adults and children continue to suffer from unhealthy diets.



WHO and the UN are encouraging countries to integrate humanitarian, development and peacebuilding policies in conflict areas, incentives for smaller farmers,  cash support programmes during the pandemic, lowering the cost of nutritious food, tackling poverty, strengthen food environments and changing consumer behaviour in order to ease the food burden.



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