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

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.

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 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 193 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 17,21,53,816 and 37,01,251 have died; 5,87,58,208 are active cases and 10,96,94,357 have recovered as on June 4, 2021 at 3:57 am.


2,85,74,350 1,32,364Cases


2,65,97,655 2,07,071Recovered

3,40,702 2,713Deaths

In India, there are 2,85,74,350 confirmed cases including 3,40,702 deaths. The number of active cases is 16,35,993 and 2,65,97,655 have recovered as on June 4, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

57,91,413 15,229

2,07,813 11,031

54,86,206 25,617

97,394 643


26,53,446 18,324

2,86,819 6,226

23,36,096 24,036

30,531 514


25,84,853 18,853

1,84,699 7,869

23,90,779 26,569

9,375 153

Tamil Nadu

21,72,751 24,405

2,80,426 8,276

18,66,660 32,221

25,665 460

Andhra Pradesh

17,28,577 11,421

1,38,912 4,883

15,78,452 16,223

11,213 81

Uttar Pradesh

16,95,212 1,220

25,546 3,148

16,48,771 4,260

20,895 108


14,27,926 487

8,748 616

13,94,731 1,058

24,447 45

West Bengal

14,03,535 8,811

61,780 8,235

13,25,834 16,938

15,921 108


9,76,760 1,619

29,378 2,257

9,34,243 3,854

13,139 22


9,43,494 1,258

27,408 5,242

9,07,527 6,456

8,559 44


8,13,270 1,207

24,404 1,828

7,78,976 3,018

9,890 17


7,90,970 8,839

75,042 1,637

7,13,055 10,434

2,873 42

Madhya Pradesh

7,82,945 846

14,186 2,950

7,60,552 3,746

8,207 50


7,60,019 980

12,688 1,980

7,38,799 2,889

8,532 71


7,10,199 1,106

11,431 1,160

6,93,472 2,238

5,296 28


5,85,489 2,261

32,579 800

5,49,579 3,043

3,331 18


5,74,114 2,144

28,673 2,460

5,30,601 4,512

14,840 92


4,24,385 4,309

51,881 527

3,68,981 4,790

3,523 46


3,39,930 1,015

7,537 230

3,27,372 775

5,021 10


3,32,067 589

22,530 2,836

3,02,964 3,387

6,573 38

Jammu And Kashmir

2,95,879 1,801

30,657 922

2,61,230 2,694

3,992 29

Himachal Pradesh

1,93,137 995

11,057 918

1,78,847 1,890

3,233 23


1,57,847 572

9,700 1,140

1,45,437 1,695

2,710 17


1,07,114 815

10,015 151

95,516 950

1,583 16


60,399 111

1,135 116

58,502 226

762 1


53,872 650

6,340 118

46,993 763

539 5


52,899 621

8,863 172

43,187 783

849 10


37,149 552

6,352 51

30,172 594

625 9

Arunachal Pradesh

28,382 364

3,843 26

24,420 337

119 1


22,240 168

4,711 121

17,125 284

404 5


18,954 113

1,505 26

17,256 137

193 2


16,165 289

4,184 81

11,718 205

263 3


13,064 205

3,415 95

9,602 108

47 2

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,345 14

250 32

10,091 46



8,479 144

1,355 112

7,089 256


Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,070 27

131 12

6,820 39


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