Over 130 million more people could be affected by chronic hunger because of Covid-19 – what this means for Africa

Man receives food from soup kitchen.
Man receives food from soup kitchen.
Wilpunt/Getty Images
  • Over 130 million more people across the world could be affected by chronic hunger by the end of 2020, according to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the number of people living with chronic hunger.
  • Africa is one of the hardest hit regions with millions undernourished every year.


Millions infected, hundreds of thousands dead and many more living in fear. That’s what the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to the world and it’s just getting started.

According to the United Nations’ (UN) annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, the pandemic will also have a devastating effect on the number of people who go to bed hungry every night.

The figures are grim. Almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019, an increase of 10 million the year before. Over the past five years the chronic hunger numbers have increased by 60 million people, the most-hungry being in Asia, with Africa set to quickly overtake it.

“Across the planet, the report forecasts the Covid-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. Flare-ups of acute hunger in the pandemic context may see this number escalate further at times,” the report states.

There are lessons to be learnt from this pandemic, said Professor Mark Tomlinson, co-director of the Institute for Life Course Health Research in the department of global health at Stellenbosch University. 

Speaking during a podcast interview, Prof Tomlinson said it was time to relook at how urbanisation is affecting the world.

“What’s happened as we’ve expanded is that these cities have devastated wildlife. Some of the estimates are that we are losing our biodiversity at a rate of about 1 000 times and the total mass of wild animals globally has been reduced by over 80%, and cloud mass by 50%.

“What this means is that the remaining animals have got to find different ways to live in . . . really odd intimate configurations with humans. And almost all the recent pandemics – Sars, Ebola – that have originated were some coronavirus that has been transferred from an animal to a human.”

According to the UN report, Asia is home to the greatest number of undernourished people with 381 million affected, Africa has 250 million followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with 48 million.

In the past five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.

“This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19,1% of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8,3%) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7,4%). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry,” the report warned.          

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