The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, on Tuesday, said more than 49 million people may fall into extreme poverty due to COVID-19 crisis this year.
This was disclosed during the launch of a Policy Brief on the impact of COVID-19 on food security and nutrition.
His assertion comes a few weeks after PREMIUM TIMES reported that about 23 million more people are expected to be pushed into extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa this year alone, according to the president, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Gilbert Houngbo.
The UN secretary said there is more than enough food in the world to feed the population of more than 7.8 billion people “but today, more than 820 million people are hungry.”
“Our food systems are failing, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse,” Mr Guterres said.
“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults,” he said.
He said the number of people who are in short supply of food and nutrition will rapidly expand, “while every percentage point drop in global Gross Domestic Product( GDP) means an additional 0.7 million stunted children.”
“Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruptions in the food supply chain. We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.”
Declaring the launch of the policy brief, the UN chief said it has three clear findings.
He said the world must mobilise to save lives and livelihoods, while focusing attention where the risk is more acute.
This he said “means designating food and nutrition services as essential, while implementing appropriate protections for food workers, and as well preserving critical humanitarian food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups”.
Also, Mr Guterres said, “it means positioning food in food-crisis countries to reinforce and scale up social protection systems.”
He urged countries to scale up support for food processing, transport and local food markets, while they must also keep trade corridors open to ensure the continuous functioning of food systems.
He said countries must ensure that relief and stimulus packages reach the most vulnerable, including meeting the liquidity needs of small-scale food producers and rural businesses.
He said global leaders must strengthen social protection systems for nutrition, “as countries need to safeguard access to safe nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups.”
The UN official said countries need to adapt and expand social protection schemes to benefit nutritionally at-risk groups, which includes supporting children who no longer have access to school meals.
“We must invest in the future,” Mr Guterres said. “We have an opportunity to build a more inclusive and sustainable world.”
He charged countries to build food systems “that better address the needs of food producers and workers, and provide more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food in order to eradicate hunger.”
“Let us rebalance the relationship between food systems and the natural environment, by transforming them to work better with nature and for the climate,” he said.