COVID-19 Food Insecurity: An Additional 135 Million People Worldwide Will Be Undernourished
Worldwide distribution of people that are undernourished

An additional 135 million people globally will be unable to feed themselves if measures are not put in place to ensure food security, said World Food Programme Regional Director for West and Central Africa Chris Nikoi, in a regular press briefing on Thursday. In the WHO African region, an extra 22 million people will be undernourished as a result of the economic fallout from COVID-19 lockdowns on top of the 200 million Africans that are already undernourished.

The majority of Africa’s population lives hand-to-mouth, and lack of income opportunities under the lockdowns have left many hungry and unable to afford food. The cost of basic foodstuffs has increased, and essential food supplies have been delayed due to trade restrictions imposed since the lockdown – with major repercussions on older populations, which are more vulnerable to COVID-19:

Chris Nikoi, UN World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for Southern Africa

“If this aging population is beginning to be affected by the pandemic, then it will have serious implications for food production going forward. West and Central Africa is now going to enter planting season and just imagine if most of rural Africa with older people who farm are falling ill,” said Nikoi.

Africa’s population is already vulnerable to COVID-19 given its high burden of pre-existing diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis – and undernourishment weakens the immune system even more. 

“Undernourished people have weaker immune systems, which may make any infection worse,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti, who also spoke at the press conference.

Governments should allow supply chains and trade to function. Production, distribution and consumption must be maintained, Nikoi said – or there will be serious malnutrition across the continent. 

In a parallel development, a new United Nations report projects that the world economy will shrink by 3.2% in 2020. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs forecasts a prolonged economic slump and a slow recovery, with global poverty rising for the first time since 1998

Image Credits: World Food Programme , Our World In Data.