United Nations, Jun 9 (efe-epa).- A total of 49 million people could slide into extreme poverty this year due to the crisis sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who urged support for local food supply chains, strengthening social protection systems for nutrition and investing in a more sustainable, inclusive world that respects the environment.
“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food emergency that could have long-term impacts on hundreds of millions of children and adults,” he said. “We need to act now to avoid the worst impacts of our efforts to control the pandemic.”
“Even in countries with abundant food, we see risks of disruption in the food supply chain,” he added.
“This year, some 49 million extra people may fall into extreme poverty due to the Covid-19 crisis. The number of people who are acutely food or nutrition insecure will rapidly expand. Every percentage point drop in global gross domestic product means an additional (700,000) stunted children,” Guterres said.
The UN chief went on to urge member nations of the world body to mobilize to designate food and nutrition services to be “essential” and to implement appropriate protection for food workers.
The remarks by the UN chief, in which he recalled that there are more than 820 million people who go hungry each day despite the fact that there is “more than enough” food to feed the planet’s 7.8 billion people, coincided with the publication by the UN of a brief containing recommendations regarding political strategies to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on food and nutrition security.
The UN is asking countries to focus their efforts where the risk is the most serious.
Guterres said that in addition to governments designating food and nutrition services to be “essential,” they should also continue providing humanitarian food help and the means of survival for the most vulnerable members of society and guarantee the continuity of food supply chains.
The UN is recommending that social protection systems be strengthened to guarantee access to food and nutrition with special attention paid to children and pregnant or nursing women.
Finally, Guterres called on UN member states to invest in the future and transform the world’s food systems into a more inclusive and sustainable structure.
On that matter, the UN emphasized that accelerated investment in the transformation of food systems should be one pillar in the response to Covid-19 with the aim of having an immediate impact to maintain and improve lives and livelihoods, at the same time that governments are preparing a more inclusive, environmentally sustainable and resilient food security system.
The top UN official said that the world should not forget that food systems contribute up to 29 percent of the greenhouse gas tonnage released each year, including 44 percent of the methane, and this is having negative effects on biodiversity.
If these steps are taken, he said, the world can avoid some of the worst repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic on food and nutrition security and can do so in a way that supports “the green transition that we need to make.”