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U.N. Report Says Pandemic Could Push Up To 132 Million People Into Hunger

The coronavirus pandemic could push up to 132 million people into hunger by the end of 2020, according to a new report from the United Nations.

"As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems," UNICEF said in a statement.

"While it is too early to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, at least another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020," the agency added.

The finding was included in the latest version of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published annually by U.N. agencies, including the World Health Organization.

The report said an economic recovery expected in 2021 would bring the number of undernourished people down — but it's not clear by how much, and the number will remain above pre-pandemic projections.

World hunger had been declining for years before 2014, the U.N. reported, but has shot up by nearly 60 million since then. It estimated that around 690 million people were undernourished in 2019.

Asia has the highest number of hungry individuals. The report estimates that 381 million people there were undernourished in 2019 — more than half of the world total.

UNICEF also highlighted the high numbers of people without access to a healthy diet, saying that "the race to end malnutrition appears compromised."

The report estimated that around 3 billion people worldwide cannot afford a healthy diet.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Austin Horn is a 2019-2020 Kroc Fellow. He joined NPR after internships at the San Antonio Express-News and Frankfort State-Journal, as well as a couple stints in the service industry. He aims to keep his reporting grounded in the experience of real individuals of all stripes.