TSC Thursdays is a weekly TSC blog post with top trending news and issues pertaining to UN Sustainable Goals. TSC’s SDG COVID Impact Dashboard applies our proprietary models and methodologies to filter the global chatter through a dynamic issue taxonomy to track and visualize COVID-19's impact across 17 SDGs in real-time. For more insights on global SDG commitment, sentiment and activity explore our SDG COVID Impact Dashboard here: https://sdg-covid.tsc.ai

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TSC's SDG COVID Impact Dashboard identified "Zero Hunger" as this week’s strongest emerging topic within the Social & Humanitarian Theme.

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Global health crisis is becoming a hunger crisis

The negative consequences of COVID-19 are multiplying at a faster pace than the virus itself—the social and economic fallout of the pandemic has led to unemployment, disruption to food production and supplies, and declining aid. Millions of people could be pushed to starvation this year and hunger could potentially end up killing more people than the COVID-19 pandemic. Oxfam warns in its recently published Report 'The hunger virus: how COVID-19 is fuelling hunger in a hungry world’ that middle-income countries such as India, South Africa, and Brazil will be the emerging epicentres of a hunger crisis since millions of people who were just about managing have already been tipped over the edge by the pandemic.


Cost of nutritious food - Soon to be a global issue?

On Monday 13 July, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), released the annual Report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI), by many regarded the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. The report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19. This would be a serious setback that throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger) by 2030.

The Report mentions that one of the key obstacles to achieving Zero Hunger is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families. The latest estimates are that a staggering 3 billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57% of the population – though no region, including North America and Europe, is spared.

TSC's Atium Software provides topical heatmaps with real-time trends including sentiment. If we compare sentiment heatmaps on food security (left image) and nutrition (right image), we see that food security is covered negatively in Africa and the Middle East, with an increasing negative coverage in Latin America, whereas nutrition is already covered as a pressing issue across the globe.

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Some of the key numbers produced by SOFI 2020:

  • 8.9% of the human population (690 million people) is hungry or undernourished
  • 10% (750 million) is severely food insecure, 19% of which is based in Africa
  • In 2019, 2 billion people did not have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food


Accelerating multi-sectoral efforts to transform food systems

For the first time in its history, the SOFI Report explicitly called on the need for a multi-sectoral approach towards achieving food security, and emphasized on government ownership and investment being crucial to create systemic improvements. The Report calls on governments to increase the affordability of healthy diets and bring down the cost of nutritious foods. This requires looking critically at the cost drivers throughout the food supply chain and shaping post-pandemic recovery plans to provide grant attention to small-scale producer support, child nutrition, education and communication, and nutrition-focused investment strategies. According to a new Report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and Cornell University, as part of the Ceres2030: Sustainable Solutions to End Hunger project, US$10 billion is urgently needed to prevent millions more people becoming food insecure as a result of COVID-19.

Identifying the key drivers in the complex and ever-evolving food systems debate can be a daunting task. Even more so, to accelerate multi-stakeholder collaborations it is essential to understand the dynamics of the stakeholder ecosystem you will be engaging with. TSC's Atium software allows us to rapidly identify the trending and emerging voices in important debates, and map their connections as well as pathways for you to leverage. After SOFI 2020 was launched, Atium identified the key voices that advocated or were referenced in relation to the Report's findings on Twitter and mapped those picked up within 24 hours of the Report's launch.

The result: a highly interconnected network of experts with strong ties to government, research and NGOs. Will this network of "early responders" be the blueprint for a multi-stakeholder coalition to drive the transition to sustainable food systems?

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