United Nations agencies are warning that more than 350 million people in the Asia-Pacific region are going hungry as the coronavirus pandemic destroys jobs and pushes food prices higher.
The report issued Wednesday by four agencies says the pandemic is making it difficult for 1.9 billion people to afford healthy diets. It follows an earlier report that forecast that in a worst case scenario that 828 million people might suffer from acute hunger because of the crisis.
The latest estimate is that nearly 688 million people globally are undernourished, more than half of them in Asia. The largest share is in South Asian countries like Afghanistan, where four in 10 people are malnourished.
The report is mostly based on data up to 2019, before the pandemic struck. But it also estimates that an additional 140 million people were likely to have fallen into extreme poverty in 2020 due to the impact of virus outbreaks and lockdowns. By the end of last year, some 265 million were estimated to be facing acute food insecurity.
A key factor is food affordability, a problem in wealthy nations like Japan as well as impoverished places like East Timor and Papua New Guinea, said the report issued by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.
Disruptions and job losses due to the pandemic are preventing families from getting enough to eat in many places. That’s evident in the long lines seen at food banks even in the United States.