THE United Nations (UN) in its recent findings says 370 million school children globally are missing out on school meals which is a major source of nutrition for them due to closure of schools forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 820 million people in the globe are hungry, said Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General in a policy brief, The Impact of COVID-19 on Food Security and Nutrition launched on Tuesday.
Guterres said response to the pandemic must support children who no longer have access to school meals.
According to him, 144 million children under the age of 5 are stunted which means that more than one in five children worldwide have stunted growth as a result of malnutrition.
He said more than 820 million people in the world are hungry though there is more than enough food in the world to feed a population of 7.8 billion people.
”Our food systems are failing, and the COVID-19 pandemic is making things worse,” Guterres said.
Guterrres stated that unless immediate action is taken, that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults.
According to him, about 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the COVID-19 crisis noting that the number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand.
He stated every percentage point drop in global Gross Domestic Product (GPD) means an additional 0.7 million stunted children, and ‘even in countries with abundant food, there are risks of disruptions in the food supply chain.’
Guterrres recommended that governments and individual around the wold must mobilize to save lives and livelihoods, focusing attention where the risk is most acute by designating food and nutrition services as essential.
He said there is need to implement appropriate protections for food workers and preserving critical humanitarian food, livelihood and nutrition assistance to vulnerable groups while also positioning food in food-crisis countries to reinforce and scale up social protection systems.
The UN Scribe e also advised that countries need to scale up support for food processing, transport and local food markets, adding that they must keep trade corridors open to ensure the continuous functioning of food systems.
“And must ensure that relief and stimulus packages reach the most vulnerable, including meeting the liquidity needs of small-scale food producers and rural businesses,” he said.
He also recommended that the governments must strengthen social protection systems for nutrition and invent ways to safeguard access to safe, nutritious foods, particularly for young children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and other at-risk groups in countries around the world, which should include supporting children who no longer have access to school meals.
Finally, he advised that countries should and must invest in the future, as there are opportunities to build a more inclusive and sustainable world.
”Let us build food systems that better address the needs of food producers and workers.”
”Let us provide more inclusive access to healthy and nutritious food so we can eradicate hunger.”
”And let us re-balance the relationship between food systems and the natural environment by transforming them to work better with nature and for the climate,” Guterres advised.
The UN boss stated that food systems contribute up to 29 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, including 44 per cent of methane, and are having a negative impact on biodiversity.
Guterres therefore advised that governments should adhere to to the recommendations as indicated by the brief launched by the organization as a measure to avoid some of the worst impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security and nutrition which also supports the green transition in a way that the world needs.