Covid-19 will cause more deaths from starvation than from infection
The world is hurtling toward an unprecedented hunger crisis. Up to 132 million more people than previously projected could go hungry in 2020, and this year's increase may be more than triple any increase this century.
The pandemic is overturning food supply chains, crippling economies and eroding the purchasing power of consumers. Some projections show that by the end of the year, Covid-19 will cause more people to die each day from hunger than from virus infections.
What makes the situation incomparable? The massive rebound is happening at a time of huge global food surpluses. And it's happening in all parts of the world, with new levels of food insecurity predicted for countries that used to be relatively stable.
In Queens, New York, lines winding around a food bank last eight hours, and people wait for a box of supplies that could last a week, as California farmers plow lettuce, and fruits rot on trees in Washington.
In Uganda, bananas and tomatoes are piling up in open air markets, and even the quasi-free prices are not low enough for jobless shoppers. Rice and meat supplies were floated in ports earlier this year following logistics jams in the Philippines, China and Nigeria. And in South America, Venezuela teeters on the brink of famine.
We will see the scars of this crisis for generations and we will continue to talk about this crisis, said Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University.
By the end of the year, up to 12,000 people could die a day from hunger related to Covid-19, potentially more than those who die from the virus itself, estimates the charity Oxfam International. That is calculated based on an increase of more than 80% for those facing crisis hunger level. Globally, deaths from coronavirus infections have exceeded 846,000.
Covid-19 has exposed some of the deepest inequalities in the world. It is also a determining force in who eats and who does not, underscoring global social divisions as the wealthiest continue to enjoy a dizzying rate of wealth accumulation.
Millions of people are out of work and do not have enough money to feed their families, despite billions in government stimulus that have helped drive global stocks to record highs.
In addition to the economic malaise, lockdowns and broken supply chains have also created a serious problem for food distribution. The sudden shift from not eating at restaurants - which in places like the United States used to account for more than half of meals - means that farmers have been dumping milk and cracking eggs, with no easy means of redirecting their production to grocery stores, or to those in need.
Don Cameron of Terranova Ranch in California took a hit of approximately $55,000 this year in his cabbage crop. Almost half of the loss, $24,000, was due to Cameron deciding to donate to local food banks after demand from his regular customers dried up.
He had to pay for the labor needed to harvest and load trucks. He even needed to cover the cost of some containers and pallets to move supplies. It would have been much cheaper to let the crops rot in the field.