FAO forecasts that the number of undernourished people will rise by about 132 million and, the number of acutely malnourished children by 6.7 billion worldwide due to the pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic has also increased food insecurity for millions in cities and rural areas which is further exacerbated by the loss of millions of jobs due to the crisis.
The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) will hold an online conference beginning on Tuesday to discuss ways to help reduce hunger and avoid worsening conditions in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We are facing two pandemics. COVID-19, which beyond its health toll is crushing livelihoods, and hunger, a scourge the international community pledged to eradicate by the end of this decade,” said Qu Dongyu, the FAO’s director-general during a commentary ahead of the virtual meeting.
The combined impacts of Covid-19, natural disasters such as typhoons and drought, diseases and pests such as locusts have highlighted the need to build stronger capacity to “manage multiple risks to food systems,” according to a FAO report prepared ahead of the meeting.
According to the UN, in Yemen, more than a quarter of a million children are suffering from severe malnutrition and will die without treatment. In Africa, nearly 5 million people are threatened with starvation due to locust outbreaks. With millions of newly unemployed in wealthier countries like the United States, the queues at food banks are long. Tourism-dependent countries such as Thailand are experiencing the devastating impact of the pandemic on their economies.
The FAO is urging a faster deployment of high-tech tools such as drones and smartphone apps to monitor crops, pests and other farming conditions as part of a transformation of food systems to make them more resilient and reduce risks, especially for the most vulnerable small farmers in poor countries.
In many countries, farmers are using e-commerce and digital data to fine-tune planting and other aspects of agriculture. Chinese e-commerce platforms are helping to match supply and demand for farm produce and other food.
On a smaller scale, FAO experts noted there were many potential home-grown solutions, like farming using sacks or hydroponics.