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COVID-19 global economic recession: Avoiding hunger must be at the centre of the economic stimulus (24 April 2020)

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast in January that the global economy would grow by 3.3 percent in 2020, however its latest outlook, in April, now forecasts a contraction of 3.0 percent, with no upside scenarios and numerous risks.

The scenario presented in this brief predicts that if the anticipated global recession, due to the effects of COVID-19, were to trigger a reduction in the growth rate of gross domestic product (GDP) of between two and ten percentage points in all countries in 2020, then the number of undernourished people in net food-importing countries would increase by 14.4 million to 80.3 million, with the majority of the increase coming from low-income countries.

Economic stimulus in all countries must be focused on keeping the food supply chains functioning, while also protecting access to locally-, regionally- and globally-produced food. Stimulus measures that tackle the current menace to food access should emphasize efforts to build resilience into food systems to safeguard them against future economic slowdowns and downturns.

BACKGROUND

After decades of steady decline, the trend in world hunger reverted in 2015, and the number of people who suffer from hunger – as measured by the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) – began slowly to increase. As a result, more than 820 million people in the world were hungry in 2018, which underscores the immense challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger by 2030. Last year, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World showed that the uneven pace of economic recovery and continuing poor economic performance in many countries after the 2008–2009 global economic downturn, were among the key factors undermining efforts to end hunger and malnutrition (FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, 2019).The report presented evidence that most countries (65 out of 77) that experienced a rise in undernourishment between 2011 and 2017 simultaneously suffered an economic slowdown or downturn. This observation was timely, given the episodes of financial stress, elevated trade tensions and tightening financial conditions that were contributing to uncertain global economic prospects in 2019. Now, the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is obscuring those global economic prospects in ways no one could have anticipated. The economic performanceundernourishment nexus has become even more relevant in 2020.