265 Million People Could Face Hunger in ‘Unprecedented’ Crisis

May 27, 2020

The world faces an “unprecedented” food crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused both severe job losses and major disruptions in food supply chains, the U.N. World Food Programme’s Chief Economist warns.

“When you have these severe job losses, or you have big lockdowns, that means that those people become vulnerable,” Arif Husain tells TIME.

An estimated 265 million people could go hungry in 2020, nearly double the 2019 figures, according to WFP’s projection in April.

As millions around the world are losing their jobs or seeing their incomes cut, it’s increasingly difficult for them to afford food, Husain says. At the same time, lockdown measures and trade restrictions are making it harder to transport food from where it’s produced to where it’s needed, resulting in food going to waste in the field.

Refugees and people in conflict zones like Yemen, Syria, and Burkina Faso and those already living hand-to-mouth prior to the coronavirus outbreak are particularly vulnerable. They will require humanitarian aid or government assistance that might not have previously been needed, Husain says.

The pandemic is also affecting countries that rely on tourism and remittances. Economies where a large portion of the population relies on informal work—as well as those with large service or manufacturing sectors are likely to be hard-hit, as well.

The world does not currently have a shortage of food, but global food supplies are at risk of running low if farmers are not able to plant in time or receive fertilizer and other inputs in the coming months.

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