The Global Nutrition Report 2020 says the 820 million people on this planet are hungry. The other side of bad nutrition says that one in three is overweight or obese. Both categories are reasons for developing other illnesses that can lead to an early death.
People living in the world’s poorest countries are struggling with hunger and those in richer countries with excessive weight. US’s bill for treating obesity’s consequences is estimated to be $1.2tn a year by 2025.
Combined with the coronavirus pandemic, the scenario these people are living is frightening. The UN warned that, besides diet-related diseases being comorbidities, the numbers of acute hunger will double during the pandemic.
“There is a real risk that, as nations strive to control the virus, the gains they have made in reducing hunger and malnutrition will be lost,” said David Nabarro, special representative of the UN secretary-general for food security.
“Malnutrition is a threat multiplier. I think it has been ignored that people who are malnourished are likely to have lower immune systems,” also said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a climate expert at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
Major changes are needed and the report sustains them. The way agricultural land is used is one of the major problems. Favoring calories over nutrition and the low cost of highly processed foods over higher cost of highly fresh nutritional products led to this disaster.
Not only diet-related diseases are contributing to the disaster. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) released a report last year saying that poor land use causes a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.
Cynthia Rosenzweig was the author of the food security chapter in the IPCC’s report. She appealed to governments to address these problems and find ways for poor people to gain access to healthy food too, not just fulfilling. For eggs not to cost 15 times more than grain, as is the case in Burkina Faso.
But the report issued last year didn’t change much. It generated 10 global nutrition targets, and none of them has been met. Only 8 of 194 countries are on their way to meet four of them.
A healthy diet shouldn’t be a matter of choice and still, it is so. People starving and people forced to eat unhealthy food just because it’s cheap shouldn’t happen in such modern times. “They not have access to a range of healthy food. The interface between the food supply chain and consumers is inequitable,” said Venkatesh Mannar, a special adviser on nutrition to the Tata Trusts and the Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition.