No work, no food: pandemic nearly doubles the number of people at risk of starvation in the world

To leave their homes, Adriel Nice Ferreira and Adelia Nice Ferreira, who live in the Renascar community in Iranduba, have the help of Carlos Viana de Carvalho to leave their homes. Photo: Uzivaldo Queiroz / Agencia O Globo

East London, South Africa – Even though thousands of people died and millions lost their jobs covid-19 pandemic Last year in South Africa, a single mother, Thembakazi Stishi, a mechanic at a Mercedes factory, was able to support her family with the regular support of her father.

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When a new wave of Covid-19 hit in January, Stishy’s father got infected and died within days. He looked for work, and even offered door-to-door cleaning for just over R$50, but with no success. For the first time ever, she and her babies go to bed hungry.

“I try to explain that now our situation is different, no one is working, but they don’t understand,” said Stishy, ​​30, as her 3-year-old daughter pulled off her shirt. “This is the hardest part.

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The economic devastation caused by Covid-19, now in its second year, has affected millions of people like Stishy and his family, who were already leading precarious lives. Now, in South Africa and in many other countries of the continent, many people have been pushed into the abyss.

An estimated 270 million people will face potentially life-threatening food shortages this year, compared to 150 million before the pandemic, according to an analysis by the World Food Program (WFP), the world’s fighting hunger agency. The analysis showed that the number of people on the verge of hunger, the most severe phase of the food crisis, has risen to 41 million today, up from 34 million last year.

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The WFP warned in a joint report with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations last week that “the conflict, the economic fallout of Covid-19 and the climate crisis must lead to acute food insecurity over the next four months.” 23 famines”, mainly in Africa, but also in Central America, Afghanistan and North Korea.

The situation is particularly bleak in Africa, where new infections have emerged. In recent months, aid organizations have warned about Ethiopia – where the number of people affected by the famine exceeds anywhere in the world – and southern Madagascar, where hundreds of thousands of people are close to starving after an extraordinarily severe drought. Huh.

Amer Daoudi, senior operations director of WFP, described the state of food security, saying, “I’ve never seen it as bad globally as it is now.” “Usually you have two, three, four crises, like conflict, starvation, at the same time. But now we are talking about a series of significant crises happening simultaneously around the world.

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In South Africa, generally one of the continent’s most food-secure nations, famine has resonated across the country. Last year, three devastating waves of the coronavirus killed thousands of family heads, leaving their families unable to buy food. School closures for months ended the free lunches that feed nearly 9 million students. A strict government quarantine last year also closed informal food stores in neighborhoods, forcing some of the country’s poorest residents to travel further afield to buy groceries and shop at more expensive supermarkets.

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An estimated 3 million South Africans lost their jobs and the unemployment rate soared to 32.6% – a record since the government began collecting quarterly data in 2008. In rural parts of the country, multi-year droughts have killed livestock and damaged farmers’ incomes.

The South African government has provided some relief, only introducing monthly assistance and other social subsidies equal to R$120 last year. According to one academic study, by the end of the year, about 40% of all South Africans were affected by famine.

In the Karoo region, eight years of drought have increased epidemic rates, turning a once lush landscape of evergreen shrubs into a dull gray.

On her 1,000-hectare farm, 70-year-old Jolile Hanabe sees more than a loss in her income. In 2011, nearly 20 years after the end of apartheid, he used his savings from working as school principal to rent a farm, buy five cattle and 10 Boer goats. They grazed in the bushes and drank from a river that crisscrossed the property. The farm was his “heritage,” Hanabe said.

But in 2019, he was still leasing the farm, and as the drought intensified, the river dried up, 11 animals died, and the bushes dried up. Hanabe started buying feed to keep the rest of the squad alive. Then, with the onset of the pandemic, it fired two of its employees to downplay the risk of infection. Feed vendors have also cut staff and raised prices, further tightening their budgets.

“Maybe I could have avoided one of those crises,” Hanabe said. “But both?”

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About the author: Muhammad Wayne

Wayne is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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