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Nov 24, 2021

Three billion people unable to afford a healthy diet: WFP

Foreign Affairs News Desk
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected global food systems worldwide, causing food insecurity and malnutrition. Photo: Maxime Fossat/ILO
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected global food systems worldwide, causing food insecurity and malnutrition. Photo: Maxime Fossat/ILO

On an average nearly 40 per cent of the world’s population, which comes to around three billion people, cannot afford a healthy diet and one more billion people would join their ranks should further unpredictable events reduce incomes by one-third, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

Launching a new report on Tuesday, the UN Food Agency 2021 SOFA Report states that unpredictable shocks will continue to undermine these systems. 

The report defines shocks as short-term events that have negative effects on a system, people’s well-being, assets, livelihoods, safety and ability to withstand future shocks.

FAO stressed the need for countries to make their systems more resilient to sudden shocks, like the COVID-19 pandemic, which played a large part in the latest global hunger surge. 

Agrofood systems – the web of activities involved in the production of food and non-food agricultural products and their storage, processing, transportation, distribution and consumption – produce 11 billion tonnes of food a year and employ billions of people, directly or indirectly.  

While food production and supply chains have historically been vulnerable to climate extremes, armed conflicts or increases in global food prices, the frequency and severity of these shocks are on the rise. 

Moreover, a disruption to critical transport links could push food prices up for some 845 million people. 

The report includes country-level indicators in over one hundred Member States, by analyzing factors such as transport networks, trade flows and the availability of healthy and varied diets. 

While low-income countries generally face much greater challenges, middle-income countries are also at risk. 

In Brazil, for example, 60 per cent of the country’s export value comes from just one trading partner, narrowing its options should a shock hit that partner country. 

Even high-income countries, such as Australia and Canada, are at risk because of the long distances involved in the distribution of food. 

Poverty in Central America

Meanwhile, for the past five years, poverty, food insecurity, climate shocks and violence have pushed, on average, some 378,000 Central Americans a year into the United States, according to a new report. 

A joint report published by the EFP, Migration Policy Institute (MPI), and Civic Data Design Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also showed that a high price was paid in human and economic costs, including an annual US $2.2 billion on regular and irregular travel. 

The publication draws from a unique survey of thousands of Central American households in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.  

The report revealed that in just two years, the percentage of people who considered migrating internationally increased more than five-fold, jumping from eight per cent in 2019 to 43 per cent in 2021. 

In Honduras, close to the Corinto border with Guatemala, police stop buses carrying migrants to check documentation and COVID test results. Photo:Julian Frank/WFP

However, only three per cent had made concrete plans. Family separation and high costs associated with migrating were cited as deterrents.

As many families would much rather stay home, WFP’s programmes are supporting sustainable livelihoods and offering people hope and opportunity in their own villages, adding the report, food insecure people are three times more likely to make concrete plans to migrate than people who are not. 

Migration flows were also impacted by violence and insecurity, as well as climate-related-shocks, such as severe droughts in the Central American Dry Corridor and more frequent and stronger storms in the Atlantic. 

The report also recommended that the US and other migrant-destination countries expand legal pathways for Central Americans, such as by increasing access to temporary employment visas.