(p. A1) An estimated 270 million people are expected to face potentially life-threatening food shortages this year — compared to 150 million before the pandemic — according to analysis from the World Food Program, the anti-hunger agency of the United Nations. The number of people on the brink of famine, the most severe phase of a hunger crisis, jumped to 41 million people currently from 34 million last year, the analysis showed.
The World Food Program sounded the alarm further last week in a joint report with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, warning that “conflict, the economic repercussions of Covid-19 and the climate crisis are expected to drive higher levels of acute food insecurity in 23 hunger hot spots over the next four months,” mostly in Africa but also Central America, Afghanistan and North Korea.
The situation is particularly bleak in Africa, where new infections have surged. In recent months, aid organizations have raised alarms about Ethiopia — where the number of people affected by famine is higher than anywhere in the world — and (p. A5) southern Madagascar, where hundreds of thousands are nearing famine after an extraordinarily severe drought.
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In South Africa, typically one of the most food-secure nations on the continent, hunger has rippled across the country.
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An estimated three million South Africans lost their jobs and pushed the unemployment rate to 32.6 percent — a record high since the government began collecting quarterly data in 2008.
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In Duncan Village, the sprawling township in Eastern Cape Province, the economic lifelines for tens of thousands of families have been destroyed.
Before the pandemic, the orange-and-teal sea of corrugated metal shacks and concrete houses buzzed every morning as workers boarded minibuses bound for the heart of nearby East London. An industrial hub for car assembly plants, textiles and processed food, the city offered stable jobs and steady incomes.
“We always had enough — we had plenty,” said Anelisa Langeni, 32, sitting at the kitchen table of the two-bedroom home she shared with her father and twin sister in Duncan Village.
For nearly 40 years, her father worked as a machine operator at the Mercedes-Benz plant. By the time he retired, he had saved enough to build two more single family homes on their plot — rental units he hoped would provide some financial stability for his children.
The pandemic upended those plans. Within weeks of the first lockdown, the tenants lost their jobs and could no longer pay rent. When Ms. Langeni was laid off from her waitressing job at a seafood restaurant and her sister lost her job at a popular pizza joint, they leaned on their father’s $120 monthly pension.
Then in July, he collapsed with a cough and fever and died of suspected Covid-19 en route to the hospital.
“I couldn’t breathe when they told me,” Ms. Langeni said. “My father and everything we had, everything, gone.”
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 6, 2021, and has the title “No Work, No Food: Pandemic Deepens Global Hunger.”)