Yemenis wait to get emergency food aid provided by Mona relief agency amid acute food insecurity in Sana'a, Yemen, 12 July 2021 | Photo: EPA / YAHYA ARHAB
Yemenis wait to get emergency food aid provided by Mona relief agency amid acute food insecurity in Sana'a, Yemen, 12 July 2021 | Photo: EPA / YAHYA ARHAB

The Covid-19 pandemic has further aggravated the global problem of poverty and malnutrition, Italian Premier Mario Draghi has said. The number of people without food security has increased by at least 130 million, bringing the total number to 800 million.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi, speaking at the opening of the UN Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome on Monday (July 26), said the ongoing health crisis due to Covid has generated a food crisis.

"As with vaccines, we must act with determination to improve access to an adequate quantity of food supplies," Draghi said. He warned of the alarming situation regarding malnutrition.

"The pandemic has made all concerns about food systems even more urgent. The price index for agricultural goods has increased by 30% compared to the same period in 2020. Malnutrition is spreading and has become the leading cause of health problems and death. The pandemic will increase the number of malnourished people to 130 million bringing the total number to 800 million," he added.

Pope calls it 'a crime' that violates human rights

In a message sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for the pre-summit in Rome, Pope Francis wrote: "We produce enough food for everyone, but many are left without daily bread. This constitutes a real scandal, a crime that violates fundamental human rights. Therefore, it is everyone's duty to eradicate this injustice through concrete actions and good practices, and through bold local and international policies."

Food Coalition, promoted by Italy

Draghi recalled that with the Matera Declaration on Food Security, Nutrition and Food Systems, the G20 paved the way for the Food Systems Summit. He said the pre-summit in Rome is "an opportunity to transform the way we think, produce and consume food, at the level global."

"At the end of last year Italy promoted the Food Coalition, made up of over 40 countries. The goal is to achieve food security for all. We need more funding from governments and development banks," Draghi said.

"The idea of this summit was launched by Secretary General Guterres on the occasion of World Food Day in October 2019. His was a just concern for the numerous threats to food security, including climate change, infectious diseases and disruptions to supply chains. The Covid-19 pandemic has made these concerns even more pressing," Draghi said.

Malnutrition main cause of disease and death

"The global crisis has pushed millions of people below the poverty line. Extreme weather conditions and supply disruptions have contributed to the rise in food prices," Draghi said further in his speech.

"Malnutrition in all its forms has become the leading cause of disease and death. In 2019, around 690 million people were suffering from hunger worldwide. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the pandemic will increase that number to over 800 million," he added.


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