Before Malawi’s first Covid-19 case was announced, Flora Banda, a single mother of two from Senti Township in Lilongwe, would go house-to-house doing laundry and general house cleaning to bring food to the table. She would typically visit three households a day, bringing home approximately K3 000. But now, three or four days in a week pass without any piecemeal work.
“It never occurred to me that Covid-19 would bring hunger to my family. But now, even the regular families who would book me to do their laundry every weekend do not call me anymore. Everyone is cautious about who walks into their home,” says Banda.
There are three billion people globally who cannot afford a healthy diet, according to The State of Food and Nutrition in the World (Sofi) Report 2020 by theUnited Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Food Programme and other UN agencies.
Healthy diets are out of reach for at least 40 percent of the world’s population.
To achieve zero hunger by 2030, the gap between nutritive needs and what people can access has to be closed.
According to the report, nearly 690 million people are hungry, representing 8.9 percent of the world population.
The new report estimates that pressures brought by the coronavirus pandemic worldwide are expected to push another 121 million people into hunger.
“Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos,” said WFP executive director David Beasley.
The Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) regional vulnerability assessment and analysis programme estimates that the number of food insecure people in Malawi has risen from a projected 1.1 million prior to the pandemic to 2.7 million people, including 0.9 million urban residents.
The socio-economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis are already being felt by people throughout the country, with livelihoods and business opportunities equally affected.
The year 2030, deadline for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is fast approaching.
With just a decade to achieve a world free of hunger and malnutrition (SDG2), hunger continues to rise: it now affects 60 million more people than five years ago and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are certain to exacerbate an already-alarming situation.
A switch for people around the globe to diversified diets is necessary to roll back hunger and malnutrition. This requires interventions along the entire food supply chain to cut losses and enhance efficiencies.
Sustainability considerations must also be an integral part of this endeavour.
Malawi can succeed if we ensure that all people have access not only to food but also nutritious foods that comprise a healthy diet.
The new report is clear: the reason millions around the world suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition is because they cannot afford the cost of healthy diets.
We must look at the entire food system to address the country-specific factors that are driving up the cost of nutritious foods and in parallel strengthen the purchasing power of the most vulnerable households, especially during the lean season and other challenging times, like in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
This means supporting food producers—especially small-scale producers—to get nutritious foods to markets, ensuring that people have access to these food markets and making food supply chains work for vulnerable and poor people.
In parallel, we will need to build a strong social protection system for the poorest layer of the society that supports their incomes while encouraging healthy behaviours and providing new livelihoods opportunities.
All this will come at a cost, but the benefits of these investments will help us pave the way to ending hunger within Malawi and around the globe.