Apr 21, 2020 - Health

Rising global food insecurity could exacerbate coronavirus

In this image, two boys help a boy walk
A homeless young man, who is thought to be suffering from malnutrition, is helped to the clinic in a quarantined area outside Dakar, Senegal on April 10. Photo: John Wessels/AFP via Getty Images

135 million people globally were affected by acute malnutrition in 2019, the United Nations' food agency said in a report released Monday — the most since the agency was formed four years ago.

Driving the news: The planet is “on the brink of a hunger pandemic" as it grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, David Beasley, chief of the UN's World Food Program told the UN Security Council Tuesday, AP reports.

  • Beasley said that he warned the council about a potential food insecurity crisis before COVID-19 emerged, due to conflicts in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, Africa's locust swarms, natural disasters and economic crises, AP writes.
  • Some of the countries that faced the most food insecurity in 2019 include: Nigeria, Venezuela, Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Kenya, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN's Global Food Network against Food Crises noted in its report.

What he's saying:

“The truth is, we do not have time on our side, so let’s act wisely — and let’s act fast. I do believe that with our expertise and partnerships, we can bring together the teams and the programs necessary to make certain the COVID-19 pandemic does not become a humanitarian and food crisis catastrophe."
— David Beasley said Tueday, per AP

The bottom line: The UN report predates the coronavirus crisis, but those struggling with food insecurity often have higher rates of underlying health conditions that weaken immune systems and can "increase the risk of people developing severe COVID-19 symptoms," the agency notes.

Go deeper... UN: Millions of children at risk of poverty and malnutrition due to coronavirus

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