The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly rocked our world. Thus far, there have been over 16 million cases and well over 600,000 deaths across the globe as a result of the outbreak. The coronavirus has proven its threat to humanity and the legacy it leaves will force people to readjust how they interact with each other and exist within the world.
Shifted levels in the availability of food and household goods, social distancing efforts, surges in unemployment, and overwhelmed healthcare systems were some of the immediate effects of the coronavirus entering our global community. While COVID-19 has created new and difficult conditions for everyone, how has it impacted the more dire conditions already in existence? With global poverty and hunger, the coronavirus has taken an exasperating toll.
The latest estimates from 2015 state that about 736 million people live in extreme poverty, and experts predict that number will increase. According to World Data Lab (WDL), a research and data-driven enterprise that provides companies globally based insights, the number of people suffering from extreme poverty will rise this year by about 50 million, compared to their original 2020 forecast as a result of COVID-19.
The outcome looks even more troublesome based on findings within a joint paper, “Estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty” by economist Andy Sumner and fellow researchers Chris Hoy and Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez. Based on short term economic estimates, the trio found that an increase in poverty due to COVID-19 would not only reach hundreds of millions but also reverse a decade’s worth of the progress made towards reducing global poverty.
What does this mean for the state of world hunger? A lot. Poverty levels are directly linked to hunger and food insecurity, so with over 700 million people in the world that are severely food insecure, it’s clear that the negative impact COVID-19 is having on global poverty will be synonymous with its impact on the state of global hunger. The pandemic has brought further challenges to areas that were already struggling with health, social, and economic stability.
For instance, Niger saw a rise in polio outbreaks after vaccinations had come to a halt following the COVID-19 outbreak. With only 50% of the population having access to health care services, the pandemic has introduced broader burdens to an already struggling health system. Yemen, the second highest country in the world struggling with hunger that’s also in the middle of civil war, is seeing the spread of the coronavirus gain momentum due in part to their lack of access to water and sanitation.
Even countries that have long held strong economies found citizens grappling with hunger due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Just last month The Guardian released an article unveiling data from the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which had been collected over the spring. According to the survey, in the month of May nearly one out of six people reported food insecurity and nearly one in five adults with a mental or physical disability reported food insecurity in the United Kingdom. There was also an uptick in food bank usage in the region. COVID-19 is not only infecting us healthwise, it’s also affecting our access to nutrition.
What's The Solution?
While several doctors and pharmaceutical companies work towards finding a vaccine for the coronavirus, an equal amount of attention is needed to address the current state of hunger. A research project led by Cornell University, the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Institute for Sustainable Development (called CERES2030) have found an answer: we will need 10 billion USD to prevent more people from falling into food insecurity as a result of COVID-19. Both the CERES 2030 analysis and OXFAM call for governments to contribute a portion of the money necessary to help at-risk communities, while OXFAM continues to suggest other approaches, such as creating sustainable food systems, promoting the inclusivity of women, and calling for a global ceasefire.
While health concerns are forcing individuals to take a step back from one another, that doesn’t mean taking a step back in the fight against poverty and world hunger. In speaking with UN News, Deputy General Amina Mohammed shared her thoughts on the advent of the pandemic as having served to expose existing inequalities within the global community. Therein lies the opportunity to identify the weak links within existing policies and procedures, reconfigure our efforts and rebuild an infrastructure strong enough to support those in need, regardless of what unforeseen events may unfold.