Opinion: Responding To Triple Crises Of Environment, COVID-19 Pandemic And Hunger

Opinion: Responding To Triple Crises Of Environment, COVID-19 Pandemic And Hunger

World Environment Day: The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that due to the COVID crisis, the number of acute food-insecure people across the globe will double to 270 million in 2020-21, writes Bishow Parajuli
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Opinion: Responding To Crises Of Environment, Hunger, And COVID-19Responding To Triple Crises Of Environment, COVID-19 Pandemic And HungerThe United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that due to the COVID crisis, the number of acute food-insecure people across the globe will double to 270 million in 2020-21

New Delhi: World Environment Day 2021 comes at the intersection of exceptional circumstances. COVID-19, a global pandemic that has disrupted the world for close to two years now; a looming global hunger crisis fuelled by the pandemic and conflict; and a tipping point in the ongoing climate crisis. This confluence is interconnected in terms of cause and impact. Hence, being an optimist, I would like to look at the year as the first of a decade when humankind takes decisive actions to address challenges through unprecedented commitment, innovation, and collaboration to make peace with the environment and end hunger. This year also marks the decade of action for pushing towards the Sustainable Development Goals targets by 2030.

Also Read: What Has Been The Impact Of COVID-19 Pandemic On India’s Malnutrition Targets

The Impact Of A Warmer And Hungry World

Globally, some 690 million people do not get enough to eat. Over half of this population lives in Asia. About 10 million people are added each year to the total number of hungry people. COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a major food security and livelihood threat to millions. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that due to the COVID crisis, the number of acute food-insecure people across the globe will double to 270 million in 2020-21.

Destruction of the environment and climate change have been key drivers of the recent rise in global hunger. Climate-related events – particularly floods, storms, and droughts – are becoming more frequent and intense, land and water scarcer and more difficult to access, and increases in agricultural productivity even harder to achieve. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that, unless considerable efforts are made to improve people’s resilience, the risk of hunger and child malnutrition could increase by up to 20 per cent due to climate change by 2050.

Also Read: In 2020, Lives and Livelihoods Of Up To 270 Million People Will Be Under Severe Threat: WFP’s Cost Of A Plate Of Food 2020 Report

It is important to bear in mind that, over 80 per cent of the world’s food-insecure live in degraded environments exposed to storms, floods, drought). With a rising temperature and a warming world, extreme climate conditions becoming more frequent and severe.

As per IPCC estimates, a world that is 2 °C warmer is likely to have 189 million more food-insecure people. WFP calculations show that this is an increase of around 20 per cent compared with today.

FAO estimates that over 500 million smallholder farms, producing more than 80 per cent of the world’s food in terms of value, and 750 million extremely poor people working in agriculture – usually as smallholder family farmers – are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The number of people affected by hunger in the world continues to increase. This trend started in 2014 and extends to 2019. There are nearly 60 million more undernourished people now than in 2014. The reason for this growth centered primarily on climate shocks. This disturbing trend, and now the COVID-19 impact, challenge the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG) on Zero Hunger by 2030, shows a 2019 report by Global Center on Adaptation.

As degradation of the environment and climate change continue unabated the livelihoods and food security of millions are under threat contributing to insecurity and hunger.

Also Read: We Need To Find A Way Where We Produce Food For Ourselves And Also Save Nature, Says World Food Programme India Director

The COVID-19 Pandemic Shock And Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic marks not just a watershed moment for humanity in terms of health, social and economic disruption but also one of the most challenging periods for the developmental gains and targets that the world leaders and institutions have made over decades towards ending poverty and hunger.

COVID-19 poses a threat to food systems, indirectly reducing purchasing power and the capacity to produce and distribute food, which affects the most vulnerable populations. In 2020, according to an earlier prediction, up to 132 million more people faced suffering from undernourishment because of COVID-19.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the food security and nutrition for millions of people around the world and will likely reverse the progress made towards ending hunger by 2030”, had said Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, earlier this year, as quoted by a news agency PTI.

Also Read: How Has COVID-19 Impacted The Nutritional Status Of India’s Children? An On-Ground Report From Non-Profit Organisation CRY

The Link Between Environment And Food: Changing The Way Food Systems Work

There is another aspect to the linkage between environment and food that needs to be addressed through what is called the Food Systems approach. Food systems, which encompass actors (such as farmers, credit lender) and processes like production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal, contribute nearly 30 per cent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural production, including indirect emissions associated with land-cover change, contributes nearly 86 per cent of total food system emissions.

Greening the food systems in addition to creating environmental sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint by investing in sustainable livelihoods, ensuring the availability of safe, nutritious, affordable food to everyone, improving efficiencies, reducing inequalities and strengthening climate resilience are key to achieving zero hunger and sustainable environment simultaneously.

Also Read: “Malnutrition Is A Combination Of Lack Of Nutritious Food, Water And Sanitation And An Inadequate Healthcare System”

India Remains Critical To Achieving Environmental And Food Security

Though India has made remarkable progress against hunger and malnutrition, it is home to a quarter of all undernourished people worldwide. Add to this India’s vulnerability to the impact of climate change with a very large base of a vulnerable population, and greater dependence on agriculture in general and rain-fed agriculture in particular.

India was the seventh most affected by the devastating impact of climate change globally in 2019 according to the Global Climate Risk Index 2021.

Also Read: Opinion: At War With The Ecology- The COVID-19 Pandemic Is The Biggest Environmental Crisis Precipitated By Humans

Climate Change is a reality and threatening the livelihoods of at-risk communities, forcing distressed migration from rural to urban areas, and also impacting the food security and nutrition in India. These impacts accentuate poverty, particularly among the rural poor, when such degradation impacts soil fertility, quantity, and quality of water, air quality, forests, wildlife, and fisheries.

Food systems in India, like elsewhere, are likely to become more precarious with changes in timings, intensity, or rainfall. The increasing incidence of extreme events may force people to migrate giving rise to conflicts over access to scarce resources.

Also Read: World Food Programme India Director On Nobel Peace Prize Win And More

What We Need To Focus On

There is a need to promote sustainable food systems, ensure large-scale food safety-nets leave no one behind and inclusive growth, with women’s involvement.

Climate Changes is to stay; it will continue to affect agriculture and food security and the poor and vulnerable will be impacted. It must be part of the planning, policy, and program in agriculture, food security, and livelihood to have a continued better understanding of the situation with scientific research and planning.

Preparedness, early warning, adaptation, food diversification, and resilience-building are key in the agriculture and livelihood sectors. Engage in the resilient program and adapt to the changing situations with new varieties of crops and establishment of irrigation system and incentive program and promotion of crop plantation based on appropriate agro-climate zones.

There must be continued efforts in legal protection for the vulnerable. The Food Security laws and extension of support through various programs and responses to protect the most vulnerable and the needy population for example Food Security Act and COVID-19 response like the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana are great examples to continue to improvise and make effective with examples such as the one nation, one ration card system, addressing the exclusion and food diversity.

Also Read: Can India Piggy Bank On Food Fortification To Achieve The Goal Of POSHAN Abhiyaan?

Taking Game-Changing Ideas To Scale

Interventions that can have a positive influence on food systems include Home Grown School Meals, which connect local smallholder farmers to the supply chain of school meals programs; fortification initiatives that help communities access locally produced nutritious food; the creation and rehabilitation of infrastructure in exchange for food or cash-based assistance; strengthening public food reserves; and supporting smallholder farmers through the facilitation of credit, capacity development and access to markets.

We must focus on promoting the idea of a Circular Economy to make processes sustainable in terms of the use of materials along the entire chain from production to consumption when all materials are reused or recycled and returned to the production cycle.

A third of all food produced is lost or wasted, which not only does not contribute to food security and nutrition but also increases the burden on natural resources. Lost or wasted energy used for food production accounts for about 10 per cent of the world’s total energy consumption, and annual greenhouse gas emissions associated with food losses and food waste reach 3.5 gigatons of CO2 equivalent, states FAO.

Time To Act Now!

The theme for this year’s World Environment Day is #GenerationRestoration which is a blend of a strong call to action and urgency to act now. Let’s make this year and decade a turning point in healing the environment and creating a zero hunger world.

Also Read: India Is Home To The World’s Most Wasted Children, As Per The Global Hunger Index 2020

(Bishow Parajuli is the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Representative and Country Director to India.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene


Coronavirus has spread to 194 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 19,66,15,634 and 41,98,750 have died; 6,33,31,644 are active cases and 12,90,85,240 have recovered as on July 30, 2021 at 4:07 am.


3,15,72,344 44,230Cases
4,05,155 1,315Active
3,07,43,972 42,360Recovered
4,23,217 555Deaths
In India, there are 3,15,72,344 confirmed cases including 4,23,217 deaths. The number of active cases is 4,05,155 and 3,07,43,972 have recovered as on July 30, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

62,90,156 7,242

81,933 3,980

60,75,888 11,032

1,32,335 190


33,49,365 22,064

1,55,327 5,287

31,77,453 16,649

16,585 128


29,01,247 2,052

23,277 685

28,41,479 1,332

36,491 35

Tamil Nadu

25,55,664 1,859

21,207 314

25,00,434 2,145

34,023 28

Andhra Pradesh

19,62,049 2,107

21,279 280

19,27,438 1,807

13,332 20

Uttar Pradesh

17,08,373 60

784 16

16,84,834 44


West Bengal

15,26,539 766

11,300 70

14,97,116 822

18,123 14


14,36,144 51

554 19

14,10,541 70



10,01,781 130

2,086 140

9,86,175 270



9,74,132 1,615

15,276 489

9,53,088 2,039

5,768 65


9,53,622 17

259 9

9,44,410 26



8,24,829 27

268 6

8,14,485 33


Madhya Pradesh

7,91,796 18

130 0

7,81,153 18



7,69,858 30

712 10

7,59,516 17

9,630 3


7,24,719 46

481 1

7,14,596 42

9,642 3


6,43,716 623

9,188 126

6,30,732 746

3,796 3


5,99,005 58

553 6

5,82,162 60

16,290 4


5,64,030 1,299

14,114 385

5,44,695 1,664

5,221 20


3,47,105 56

259 22

3,41,720 34



3,41,982 48

669 3

3,33,952 51


Jammu And Kashmir

3,21,207 181

1,144 5

3,15,686 175

4,377 1

Himachal Pradesh

2,05,728 229

1,098 145

2,01,110 84



1,70,900 90

1,077 5

1,66,679 93

3,144 2


1,20,725 98

972 49

1,17,961 49



96,824 1,000

10,895 27

84,408 1,016

1,521 11


78,059 271

3,640 221

73,665 488

754 4


63,745 731

5,750 294

56,933 423

1,062 14


61,948 5

37 1

61,102 4


Arunachal Pradesh

47,477 335

4,252 49

43,000 383

225 1


37,171 764

11,862 252

25,168 511

141 1


27,653 67

1,299 51

25,798 114

556 4


26,132 276

3,297 180

22,498 92

337 4


20,324 4

60 4

20,057 8


Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,643 1

36 5

10,603 6



10,162 7

70 6

10,042 13


Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,534 3

10 3



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