Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was not on track to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
In 2020, hunger and malnutrition shot up in absolute and proportional terms, largely perpetuated by the socioeconomic effects of COVID-19. But unlike COVID-19, there is no vaccine to protect vulnerable communities around the world from the worsening climate crisis.
Climate change is a long-term threat to food security and nutrition. Reduced crop yields, impaired nutrient quality and dietary diversity, as well as disrupted water and sanitation, undermine nutrition. By 2050, the risk of hunger and malnutrition could rise by 20 percent if the global community fails to act now to mitigate and prevent the adverse effects of climate change. The majority of child deaths expected to occur as a result of climate change will be driven by undernutrition.
CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACT ON NUTRITION
Since the 1990s, climate shocks have more than doubled in developing countries, already vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition. This is alarming for the one billion children who live in the 33 countries classified as ‘extremely high-risk’ to the impacts of climate change.
Climate variability and extremes lead to shortfalls in food availability by reducing and destroying crop yields and stocks. A combination of spikes in food prices, reduced incomes, disruption of trade and transport, and damage to market infrastructures hinder vulnerable people’s access to food, leading to poor quality, and diversity of diets. This combined with water insecurity and disease outbreaks arising as a result of climate change creates a perfect storm for unprecedented global nutrition crises.
Women and young children are particularly vulnerable, alongside the elderly, chronically ill and socially isolated.
Climate shocks increase workloads with negative impacts on the care of children. Droughts and desertification mean that women and girls walk further each day to search for water and firewood – exposing them to violence and with negative impacts to their mental health and wellbeing.
Where conflict and climate shocks coincide, the impact on nutrition is even more significant, derailing the growth and development of children with severe and lasting impacts throughout their lives