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Simulating rising undernourishment during the COVID-19 pandemic economic downturn

This technical note describes the methodology and data used to obtain estimates of rising undernourishment, under three hypothetical scenarios of gross domestic product (GDP) growth reduction that could materialize based on different forecasts emerging in association with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. It analyses optimistic, mild and pessimistic scenarios prospecting a reduction in GDP growth of, respectively, 2, 5 and 10 percentage points (p.p.). First, a GMM model over the 1995–2017 period is used to estimate elasticities of the per capita food supply and GDP growth reduction in low-and middle-income countries. Then, the simulated reduction in food supply due to economic deceleration is translated into an increase of the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) using a calculator developed by the FAO Statistic Division. Results focus on 101 net food-importing countries in the low- and middle-income group, for which the elasticity estimated is statistically significant. Without protective measures in terms of redistribution of the available food supply, even under the optimistic scenario (-2 p.p. in GDP growth), the PoU might increase by 0.28 p.p., thus bringing an additional 14.4 million people in the ranks of the undernourished. Low-income food deficit countries will be those suffering more from this recession due to their vulnerable position characterized by low incomes and dependence on food imports for their subsistence.

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