Covid may leave 132 mn more undernourished by year-end2 min read . Updated: 15 Oct 2020, 07:34 AM IST
Millions of enterprises are facing existential threat which has put livelihoods of many at risk, says WHO
The number of undernourished people globally could surge by 132 million by December-end from the estimated 690 million currently because of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Millions of enterprises are facing an existential threat from the pandemic, the WHO said in a statement issued jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations , the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Labour Office (ILO) on Tuesday.
It said that nearly half of the global workforce of 3.3 billion is at risk of losing their livelihoods, with informal economy workers being the most vulnerable as most lack social protection and access to quality healthcare and have also lost their productive assets. “Without the means to earn during lockdowns, many are unable to feed themselves and their families. For most, no income means no food, or, at best, less food and less nutritious food," the statement said.
Covid-19 has been affecting the entire food system and has laid bare its fragility, the WHO noted.
Border closures, trade restrictions, and confinement measures have been preventing farmers from accessing markets, including for buying inputs and selling their produce, and agricultural workers from harvesting crops, thus disrupting domestic and international food supply chains and reducing access to healthy, safe and diverse diets, according to the statement.
Focusing on millions of livelihoods that are at risk because of the pandemic, the WHO said the breadwinners have lost jobs, fallen ill, and died, while the food security and nutrition of millions of women and men are under threat, with those in low-income countries, particularly the most marginalized sections such as small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples being the hardest hit.
“Millions of agricultural workers, waged and self-employed, while feeding the world, regularly face high levels of working poverty, malnutrition and poor health, and suffer from a lack of safety and labour protection as well as other types of abuse," according to the statement. “With low and irregular incomes and a lack of social support, many of them are spurred to continue working, often in unsafe conditions, thus exposing theirselves and their families to additional risks."
Workers who experience income losses may resort to negative coping strategies such as distress sale of assets, predatory loans, or child labour, the global organisations pointed out.
Migrant agricultural workers are particularly vulnerable, as they face risks in their transport, working, and living conditions and struggle to access support measures put in place by governments, they said.
Guaranteeing the safety and health of all agri-food workers–from primary producers to those involved in food processing, transport and retail, including street food vendors. as well as better incomes and protection, will be critical to saving lives and protecting public health, people’s livelihoods and food security, according to the statement.
Food security, public health, and employment and labour issues, in particular the health and safety of workers, converge in the covid-19 crisis, the organizations said. “Adhering to workplace safety and health practices and ensuring access to decent work and the protection of labour rights in all industries will be crucial in addressing the human dimension of the crisis," according to the joint statement.