United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday that nearly 50 million more people are expected to enter “extreme poverty” due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has also impacted global food distribution.
“There is more than enough food in the world to feed our population of 7.8 billion people, but today, more than 820 million people are hungry," Guterres said in a policy brief on food security Tuesday. “Our food systems are failing, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse."
More than 20 million people across the Horn of Africa are struggling with acute food insecurity, according to United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Even countries with abundant food supplies like the United States have experienced food disruption, as the U.S. meat industries reported earlier this year when they warned 10 million pigs, chickens and cows could be culled as a result the coronavirus.
Just over a dozen of the over 800 slaughterhouses in the U.S. closed due to the pandemic, but only about 50 plants process 98 percent of U.S. beef supply, the New York Times reported.
“We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic,” Guterres said Tuesday.
The secretary-general said that all food and nutrition services need to be designated as essential while ensuring increased safety precautions for all workers.
He also said countries need to provide more support for food distribution to ensure that trade routes stay open and local markets are able to be served.
“Countries need to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups,” Guterres explained in his food security policy brief.
Guterres also suggested that the global community needs to become more inclusive and sustainable when it comes to food distribution and the environment, pointing out that “food systems contribute up to 29 percent of all greenhouse‑gas emissions.”
“If we do these things and more, as indicated by the brief we are launching today, we can avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and nutrition,” Guterres added. “And we can do so in a way that supports the green transition that we need to make.”