As a result of the economic crisis caused by mass shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is facing a hunger crisis at an “unprecedented” scale.
“The coronavirus pandemic has brought hunger to millions of people around the world. National lockdowns and social distancing measures are drying up work and incomes, and are likely to disrupt agricultural production and supply routes — leaving millions to worry how they will get enough to eat,” The New York Times reported this week. “The coronavirus has sometimes been called an equalizer because it has sickened both rich and poor, but when it comes to food, the commonality ends. It is poor people, including large segments of poorer nations, who are now going hungry and facing the prospect of starving.”
As summarized by the paper, experts say the growing crisis is the result of “a multitude of factors linked to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing interruption of the economic order: the sudden loss in income for countless millions who were already living hand-to-mouth; the collapse in oil prices; widespread shortages of hard currency from tourism drying up; overseas workers not having earnings to send home; and ongoing problems like climate change, violence, population dislocations and humanitarian disasters.”
Lockdowns implemented in an attempt to curb the virus, despite a lack of crucial data about its infection rate and fatality rate, has resulted in demonstrations, stampedes, and looting in countries ranging from “Honduras to South Africa to India.”
One key factor resulting in widespread lack of food is the decision by many countries to shut down schools. “With classes shut down, over 368 million children have lost the nutritious meals and snacks they normally receive in school,” the Times notes.
Citing Johan Swinnen, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Times says that while there is “no shortage of food globally, or mass starvation from the pandemic” yet, “logistical problems in planting, harvesting and transporting food will leave poor countries exposed in the coming months, especially those reliant on imports.”
Food supplies in countries in wealthier nations are more protected due to better organization and more widespread automation, but developing countries rely on labor for most of the distribution, making the supply chains “much more vulnerable to Covid-19 and social distancing regulations,” said Swinnen.
The World Food Program’s chief economist, Arif Husain, told the paper that the total number of people facing acute food shortages could double from 135 million to 265 million as a result of the economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus shutdown.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Husain. “It wasn’t a pretty picture to begin with, but this makes it truly unprecedented and uncharted territory.”
As a result of the widespread shutdowns imposed by most of the states, the U.S. has seen a record-shattering 26 million people file for unemployment over the course of just five weeks.
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