The COVID-19 pandemic caused a worsening of the world’s hunger in 2020. Between 720 and 811 million people worldwide faced hunger — 161 million more than in 2019, according to a report released Monday by multiple UN agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and others.

One in 10 people was undernourished. 

According to the report, while the impact of the pandemic is yet to be fully comprehended, there were other factors to influence the state of hunger of the global population.   

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“More people slid into chronic hunger in 2020 than in the previous five years combined,” said WFP executive director David Beasley. “This means their future potential is being destroyed by hunger. The world needs to act to save this lost generation before it’s too late.”  

No region of the world was spared. While more than half of the undernourished live in Asia, a sharp rise in hunger was recorded in Africa — 292 million people, which is 30% of the malnourished globally. 

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The high cost of healthy diets and persistently high levels of poverty and income inequality continue to keep healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people worldwide. And 2.3 billion people, almost one-third of the global population, lacked year-round access to adequate food, with children being the most vulnerable.

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Over 149 million of children under 5 years of age are estimated to have been stunted, or deemed too short for their age; more than 45 million are considered wasted, or too thin for their height; and nearly 39 million are overweight. 

Child malnutrition continues to be a challenge, the report stated, particularly in Africa and Asia. Adult obesity also continues to increase, with no reversal in the trend in sight. 

The 2021 edition of “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report estimates that on current courses, the UN sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030 would be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people. 

“Our worst fears are coming true. The reality is worse than expected. Reversing such high levels of chronic hunger will take years if not decades,” said WFP chief economist Arif Husain. 

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