A basic meal (e.g, rice and beans) is far beyond the reach of millions of people in 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, climate change and economic troubles, leading to an increase in hunger level around the world, a new report by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has said.
The report titled “Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report” was published Friday. It is the third edition of its kind, although it was formerly called “Counting the Beans report”.
This year’s edition features 36 countries and it highlights the countries where a simple meal such as rice and beans costs the most, when compared with people’s incomes.
According to the report, South Sudan once again topped the list of these countries having basic ingredients costing a staggering 186 percent of a person’s daily income, while 17 of the top 20 countries featured in the index are in sub-Saharan Africa.
The WFP executive director, David Beasley, was quoted to have said, “this new report exposes the destructive impact of conflict, climate change and economic crises, now compounded by COVID-19, in driving up hunger.”
He said it is the most vulnerable people who feel the worst effects, and that their lives were already on the edge.
“Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we were looking at the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II – and now their plight is so much worse, as the pandemic threatens nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
The report highlights that conflict is a central driver for hunger in many countries, and as well depriving a lot of people access to their homes, land, and jobs.
By implication, this has drastically reduced incomes and the availability of affordable food, the report noted.
It says the close connection between food security and peace was underlined last week when WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work fighting hunger.
Meanwhile, the report shows that the country with the most expensive plate of food is South Sudan, and that more than 60,000 people had already been displaced due to violence in the east, coupled with crippling harvest and scarce means of livelihood.
“This has combined with COVID-19 and climate shock to create the threat of famine,” the report noted.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the report said the daily income spent on food by someone living in South Sudan has risen 27 points to 186 percent.
“If a resident in New York State had to pay the same proportion of their salary for a basic meal, the meal would cost $393,” says the report.
However, the report said a surge in conflict and climate changes are the main drivers of high cost of common foods in Burkina Faso, which was featured in the report for the first time.
Meanwhile, it says the number of people facing crisis levels of hunger has tripled to 3.4 million people, while famine threatens 11,000 living in the northern provinces.
Also, the report said political instability, steep declines in remittances and disruptions to trade and employment leaves Burundi, which is also on the index, exposed to growing hunger.
The WFP report said the consumers in Haiti spend more than a third of their daily incomes on a plate of food, which is equivalent to $74 for someone in New York State.
It says 83 percent of rice and more than half of food in Haiti are being imported, making it vulnerable to inflation and price volatility in international markets, especially during crises, such as the current global pandemic.
Due to this effect, Mr Beasley said the people in urban areas are now highly susceptible too, with COVID-19 leading to huge rises in unemployment, rendering people powerless to use the markets they depend on for food.
“For millions of people, missing a day’s wages means missing a day’s worth of food, for themselves and their children. This can also cause rising social tensions and instability,” he said.
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WFP said in the longer term, effective food systems are essential for access to affordable, nutritious food. Noting that the WFP’s procurement of food means it has a critical role to play in improving the systems that produce food and bring it to people’s tables.
The WFP said the report takes an estimated per capita average income across each country and calculates what percentage people must spend for a basic meal, some beans or lentils for example, and a carbohydrate matching local preferences.
The price someone in New York State might pay was calculated by applying the meal-to-income ratio for someone in a developing country to a consumer in the United States.