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Pandemic spawns starvation across the globe

COVID-19 famine could push more than 1 billion people into starvation.

The comparison couldn’t be more incompatible –  or obscene.

While North American farmers are awash in cheap grain, major parts of the globe are facing starvation as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cause of this famine is not so much the scarcity of food, although famine is plaguing major parts of Africa due to massive locust infestations, for example. Rather sources of income have vanished for many people that live a hand-to-mouth existence made worse by a virus that challenges their livelihoods along with the trading networks they rely on for survival. Many businesses in developing countries have shut down and when combined with collapsed oil prices, reduced tourism, and dramatic reductions in overseas remittances (foreign workers transferring money to their family in another country) that has crucified economies.

“These are the people I’m most worried about,” says Arif Husain, World Food Program chief economist. “They did not need COVID-19. Even without it their lives were hanging by a thread.”

Husain describes the potential impact on food-insecure people in urban areas as deeply concerning, with the urban middle class, daily wage earners, and those who work in the informal and service sectors suddenly becoming vulnerable to poverty and hunger.

At press time, the United Nations World Food Program predicts more than a quarter billion people will be suffering from acute hunger by the end of the year. Concern is highest for those in countries across Africa as well as the Middle East.

If the global gross domestic product declines an additional 5% because of the pandemic, another 147 million people could be plunged into extreme property, estimates the International Food Policy Research Institute.

When added to the 821 million people that suffer from chronic hunger, the COVID-19 famine could push more than 1 billion people into starvation by the end of the year, meaning more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 rather than from the virus itself.

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