The annual estimate of food safety departments in 76 middle- and low-income nations that are former or current recipients of U.S. food aid estimates that an additional 291 million people in those countries will not have enough to eat in 2021. This comes on top of a large number of famine increases last year after the pandemic unleashed economic unrest.
The United Nations earlier this month estimated that global food insecurity by 2020 had already reached its highest level in 15 years after the loss of income left healthy diets unavailable for about one-tenth of the global population. Things are projected to worsen in 2021 as commodity inflation and disrupted supply chains sent world food prices to the highest in almost a decade, especially bad news for poor countries dependent on food imports.
Large-scale human suffering driven by hunger is reaching new depths of darkness. A study published in the journal Nature Food this month predicted severe malnutrition between mothers and children in low- and middle-income countries would cost the world $ 30 billion in future productivity losses. Rising hunger for hundreds of millions of people, mostly in Asia and Africa, also increases the risk of political instability.
Overall, 1.2 billion people in the 76 countries covered in the USDA report – representing 31% of their population – will be food insecure this year. Prior to the pandemic, the USDA estimated that 761 million people, or less than 20% of that population, fell into this category in those countries.
Most of the extra people the USDA expects to fall into food insecurity this year are in Asia, which accounts for 72% of the increase. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Indonesia will see particularly large jumps in the number of people without enough food, according to the report. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 21% of the global growth of malnourished people.
Yemen, Zimbabwe and Congo are projected to have the highest prevalence of hunger, with more than 80% of the population in each of the countries able to get enough to eat.
The main driver of rising food insecurity is the continuing decline in incomes in countries compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to the report. The authors warned that the forecasts did not take into account the potential impact of climate change, armed conflict or political or economic instability.
The department classifies someone unsafe in food if they are unable to maintain a diet of at least 2,100 calories per day, considered a minimum level to stay active and healthy.
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