The COVID-19 pandemic has brought an estimated 320 million more people into a situation of food insecurity, according to the United Nations’ annual report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published July 12.

Food security is defined in the report as “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Hunger is defined as “an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy,” and the report uses it synonymously with both chronic undernourishment and prevalence of undernourishment.

Even though food insecurity has been slowly rising in recent years, the increase brought by the pandemic exceeded the cumulative increase since 2014.

As a result of the 2020 increase, 30.4% (2.37 billion people) of the global population is now food insecure – this is a 3.8% (320 million person) increase from 2019.

In addition, upward of 811 million people experienced hunger in 2020 – 161 million more than in 2019.

This means 9.9% of the global population faced a situation of hunger last year, up from 8.4% before the pandemic. This 1.5% increase comes on the heels of a five-year stable trend in the percentage of the global population facing hunger.

“The numbers show enduring and troubling regional inequalities,” the report said. “About one in five people (21% of the population) was facing hunger in Africa in 2020 – more than double the proportion of any other region. This represents an increase of 3 percentage points in one year. This is followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (9.1%) and Asia (9%), with increases of 2.0 and 1.1 percentage points, respectively, between 2019 and 2020.”

The pandemic’s impact adds another layer of challenges to ending global hunger, as the world was not on pace before 2020 to meet the Sustainable Development Goal target of 2030.

Currently, an estimated 660 million are projected to still be facing situations of hunger in 2030, which is 30 million more than pre-pandemic forecasts.

The full report is available here.

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