Global food insecurity has surged amid the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to worsen humanitarian crises and spur further mass migration.
In 2019, an estimated 135 million people faced life-threatening food insecurity, according to the World Food Program (WFP), the UN food assistance agency. Now, that number is projected to nearly double due to the coronavirus pandemic, with food emergencies afflicting countries that have not required interventions in the past.
Pandemic restrictions have made it more difficult to access food, and economic downturns around the globe could mean long-lasting inability to afford food for hundreds of millions of people. The hunger crisis will have dramatic implications in many areas. It threatens to unravel decades of progress in global health: poor diets are the leading contributor [PDF] to the world’s disease burden, including childhood conditions such as stunting and chronic illnesses caused in part by obesity. Hunger, both acute and chronic, can also impede children’s education and career prospects. In extreme cases, it can roil the political landscape. Surging food prices helped fuel recent protests in Lebanon, while shortages led to demonstrations in Chile earlier this year. Many without access to food flee home in search of it; the WFP estimates that for every 1 percent increase in hunger, there is a 2 percent increase in migration.