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NextGen Magazine


Pandemic's Economic Chaos Projected to Increase Number of Children With Severe Hunger by 14 Percent

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 14, 2020
The number of children under five entering a "wasting state"—that is, their weight dropping so far that they risk long-term health and developmental problems, or even death—is expected to grow by 14 percent, worldwide, reported the New York Times. The Times cited the British medical journal Lancet, whose projections were bolstered by another report from the U.N. World Food Program, which predicted the number of people confronting potentially life-threatening levels of hunger would double this year to 265 million.

These people, concentrated mostly in South Asia and Africa, are not suffering from a famine as we typically understand them; rather, food prices have risen at a time when already-meager incomes have fallen, meaning that the spike in hunger is purely an economic force, with no connection to physical realities, as food supplies remain robust. In this respect, it is very similar to the Bengal Famine of 1943 or the mid-19th-century Irish potato famine. In both cases, crop yields were actually higher than normal; in both cases, food was actually plentiful, but much of it was exported.

Exacerbating the current situation are numerous trade barriers erected in these regions that were meant to reduce COVID-19 cases but, at the same time, diminished access to food.

However, one does not need to go to Africa or Asia to see hunger taking its toll; right here in the United States, it is estimated that the number of people who are food insecure—that is, unsure of whether or not they'll have enough to eat at the end of the day—is believed to have doubled over the course of the pandemic. Many are turning to food banks, sometimes for the first time, but these institutions, generally struggling even in good times, have found themselves increasingly stretched to the breaking point as they absorb all this new demand.