COVID-19: Need to address food insecurity - GulfToday

COVID-19: Need to address food insecurity

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Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The global coronavirus infections passing 14 million on Friday, as per a Reuters tally, is a grim milestone that makes it clear the war against the deadly pandemic is far from over.

Global solidarity is essential more than ever as this is the first time there has been a surge of a million cases in just under 100 hours.

The first case was reported in China in early January and it took three months to reach 1 million cases. It has taken just four days to climb to 14 million cases from 13 million recorded on July 13.

Another worrisome factor is that hunger is due to soar as coronavirus obliterates lives and livelihoods. A new report shows that people in some 25 countries are set to face devastating levels of hunger in coming months due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the greatest concentration of need is in Africa, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the Middle East and Asia – including middle-income countries – are also being ravaged by crippling levels of food insecurity, according to the Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Security Hotspots, compiled by the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley’s words highlight the grim scenario. In his own words: “Three months ago at the UN Security Council, I told world leaders that we ran the risk of a famine of biblical proportions. Today, our latest data tell us that, since then, millions of the world’s very poorest families have been forced even closer to the abyss. Livelihoods are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate and now their lives are in imminent danger from starvation. Make no mistake – if we do not act now to end this pandemic of human suffering, many people will die.”

The number of acute food insecure people in these at-risk countries could increase from an estimated 149 million pre-COVID-19 to 270 million before the end of the year if life-saving assistance is not provided urgently.

Recent estimates also suggest that up to 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as a result of pandemic-related disruptions to essential health and nutrition services.

As the virus intensifies its spread, it is clear that the fight against it needs to be intensified too. The United Nations is increasing to $10.3 billion its appeal for humanitarian aid funding to handle the fallout from the coronavirus crisis around the world.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has stated that the number of people in the world who need humanitarian assistance has more than doubled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the global lockdown of economies and societies.

At the beginning of the year, humanitarian agencies targeted around 110 million people. They now need to reach 250 million in 63 countries. The pandemic has killed more than 590,000 people in almost seven months, edging towards the upper range of yearly influenza deaths reported worldwide.

The disease is accelerating the fastest in the Americas, which account for more than half the world’s infections. There is absolutely no scope for complacency. The unknown enemy needs to be tackled before more precious lives are lost.

The international community should come up with a stronger collective response as the pandemic continues to flex its muscles and tries to test the willpower of entire humanity.

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