Coronavirus Updates: U.N. Warns World Hunger Could Double as Global Economy Crashes



Italy’s poorer south suffers under lockdown, and fears a second blow from the virus.
       In Italy, the pandemic hit the wealthy north first and hardest, but the poorer south is also suffering deeply, amid fears that things there could get much worse.
The northern region that includes Milan, the country’s commercial capital, has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks. It has caused more than 20,000 known deaths, sickened and killed many health care workers, overwhelmed hospitals, forced doctors to ration lifesaving treatment and left many elderly people to die with no care at all.
          The national lockdown the government ordered six weeks ago has kept that level of catastrophe from hitting the south, where there have been about 1,500 deaths, and where health care systems are not as sophisticated or as well staffed, and were already in dire financial straits.
         “The health system in the south cannot hold a candle to the northern one,” said Giovanni Rezza, director of the infectious illness department at the National Health Institute. He said the government’s lockdown decision was in part motivated by the belief that “the south cannot bear the shock of an epidemic.”
       Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday that the country was likely to begin easing lockdown measures from May 4, and promised to move cautiously. But southern officials fear that easing travel restrictions will expose their region to the full wrath of Covid-19.
        The south was already suffering from poverty and corruption before the epidemic struck, leaving many people with little to fall back on. Unemployment was at 18 percent, and many workers were ineligible for benefits if they lost their jobs because they worked off the books.
The number facing acute hunger could double this year, the World Food Program says.
        The coronavirus pandemic is likely to double the number of people facing acute hunger this year, according to a new report from the World Food Program that details how the virus — and the resulting lockdowns — will exacerbate conditions in some of the world’s poorest nations.
         About 265 million people in low- and middle-income nations could face starvation by the end of 2020, a doubling of the 135 million who already faced acute food insecurity in 2019, according to the program, which is part of the United Nations. Most of the countries with the worst food crises are in Africa, with conflict, climate change and economic crises listed as the main factors threatening access to food.
        The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 2.4 million people and killed over 165,000 in at least 177 nations since it began, upending almost all aspects of life, and introducing dramatic changes to how we interact, learn, and work. Across the world, lockdowns and social distancing measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus have also affected agricultural production, food security and levels of nutrition.
         Unless much-needed food and humanitarian aid is delivered to those  in need, the virus and the response “could prove catastrophic for millions already hanging by a thread,” Arif Husain, the chief economist with the World Food Program, said in a statement.



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