UN: Acute Food Shortages Worldwide May Double Due to COVID-19
A stark new assessment from the UN's World Food Program (WFP) found that the economic implications from the economic downturns due to the coronavirus crisis might raise the number of people facing acute food shortages to 265 million, according to Reuters. That's nearly twice as many as were already suffering from acute hunger.
The WFP experts warned that swift action is required to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk areas of the planet before more than a quarter of a billion people are at risk of starving, as The Guardian reported.
"It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe."
The surge in food shortages is due to precipitous drops in tourism, as well as less money being sent to poorer regions, and travel and other restrictions that are driving economic engines to a halt, as Reuters reported.
"We all need to come together to deal with this because if we don't the cost will be too high — the global cost will be too high: many lost lives and many, many more lost livelihoods," Husain told reporters at a virtual briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, according to Reuters.
The report warned that, in some of the poorest countries around the globe, attempts to save people from COVID-19 may be in vain if it means watching people die from hunger, according to the Global Report on Food Crises published on Tuesday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program and 14 other organizations.
"The upheaval that has been set in motion by the COVID-19 pandemic may push even more families and communities into deeper distress," wrote António Guterres, the UN secretary-general in the foreword.
"At this time of immense global challenges, from conflicts to climate shocks to economic instability, we must redouble our efforts to defeat hunger and malnutrition. We have the tools and the knowhow. What we need is political will and sustained commitment by leaders and nations."
Speaking to reporters, Husain warned that it is important to step in to prevent people who are living hand-to-mouth from selling their limited assets. If, say, a farmer sells his plough oxen, it may take years to become self-reliant again and it will decrease food production, according to Reuters.
"These were the people we were concerned about – those who were OK before COVID and now they are not," he said, adding he was "really worried" about people living in countries with little or no government safety nets, as Reuters reported.
Even without the coronavirus, the food supply for many countries – such as Yemen, where conflict has led to millions facing starvation, and in east Africa, where locust swarms pose a famine threat – was already grim, as The Guardian reported.
"The pandemic is a crisis on top of a crisis in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia," said Sean Callahan, chief executive of the charity Catholic Relief Services in the U.S., to The Guardian.
"The severe health risks are only part of the outbreak. Lockdowns are hampering people from planting and harvesting crops, working as day laborers and selling products, among other problems. That means less income for desperately hungry people to buy food and less food available, at higher prices."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.