Hunger is Rising, COVID-19 Will Make it Worse

The economic crisis and food system disruptions from the Covid-19 pandemic will worsen the lack of nutrition in women and children, with the potential to cost the world almost $30 billion in future productivity losses. As many as 3 billion people may be unable to afford a healthy diet due to the pandemic, according to a study published in Nature Food journal. This will exacerbate maternal and child under-nutrition in low- and middle-income countries, causing stunting, wasting, mortality and maternal anemia.

Nearly 690 million people were undernourished in 2019, up by almost 60 million since 2014. Nearly half of all deaths in children under age five are attributable to undernutrition and, regrettably, stunting and wasting still have strong impacts worldwide.

In 2019, 21 per cent of all children under age five (144 million) were stunted and 49.5 million children experienced wasting.The effects of the pandemic will increase child hunger, and an additional 6.7 million children are predicted to be wasted by the end of 2020 due to the pandemic’s impact.

The situation continues to be most alarming in Africa: 19 per cent of its population is under-nourished (more than 250 million people), with the highest prevalence of undernourishment among all global regions. Africa is the only region where the number of stunted children has risen since 2000.

Women and girls represent more than 70 per cent of people facing chronic hunger. They are more likely to reduce their meal intake in times of food scarcity and may be pushed to engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as transactional sex and child, early and forced marriage.

Extreme climatic events drove almost 34 million people into food crisis in 25 countries in 2019, 77 per cent of them in Africa. The number of people pushed into food crisis by economic shocks more than doubled to 24 million in eight countries in 2019 (compared to 10 million people in six countries the previous year).

Food insecurity is set to get much worse unless unsustainable global food systems are addressed. Soils around the world are heading for exhaustion and depletion. An estimated 33 per cent of global soils are already degraded, endangering food production and the provision of vital ecosystem services.

Evidence from food security assessments and analysis shows that COVID-19 has had a compounding effect on pre-existing vulnerabilities and stressors in countries with pre-existing food crises. In Sudan, an estimated 9.6 million people (21 per cent of the population) were experiencing crisis or worse levels of food insecurity (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in the third quarter of 2020 and needed urgent action. This is the highest figure ever recorded for Sudan.

Food security needs are set to increase dramatically in 2021 as the pandemic and global response measures seriously affect food systems worldwide. Entire food supply chains have been disrupted, and the cost of a basic food basket increased by more than 10 per cent in 20 countries in the second quarter of 2020.

Delays in the farming season due to disruptions in supply chains and restrictions on labour movement are resulting in below-average harvests across many countries and regions.  This is magnified by pre-existing or seasonal threats and vulnerabilities, such as conflict and violence, looming hurricane and monsoon seasons, and locust infestations. Further climatic changes are expected from La Niña.

Forecasters predict a 55 per cent change in climate conditions through the first quarter of 2021, impacting sea temperatures, rainfall patterns and hurricane activity. The ensuing floods and droughts that could result from La Niña will affect farming seasons worldwide, potentially decreasing crop yields and increasing food insecurity levels.

The devastating impact of COVID-19 is still playing out in terms of rising unemployment, shattered livelihoods and increasing hunger. Families are finding it harder to put healthy food on a plate, child malnutrition is threatening millions. The risk of famine is real in places like Burkina Faso, north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

COVID-19 has ushered hunger into the lives of more urban communities while placing the vulnerable, such as IDPs, refugees, migrants, older persons, women and girls, people caught in conflict, and those living at the sharp end of climate change at higher risk of starvation. The pandemic hit at a time when the number of acutely food-insecure people in the world had already risen since 2014, largely due to conflict, climate change and economic shocks.

Acute food-insecurity is projected to increase by more than 80 percent – from 149 million pre-COVID-19, to 270 million by the end of 2020 – in 79 of the countries where WFP works. The number of people in crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) almost tripled in Burkina Faso compared to the 2019 peak of the food insecurity situation, with 11,000 people facing catastrophic hunger (IPC/CH Phase 5) in mid-2020.

For populations in IPC3 and above, urgent and sustained humanitarian assistance is required to prevent a deterioration in the hunger situation. It is alarming that in 2020, insufficient funds left food security partners unable to deliver the assistance required. For example, sustained food ration reductions in Yemen have directly contributed to reduced food consumption since March. Today, Yemen is one of four countries at real risk of famine.




During the COVID-19 pandemic, food security has been a global concern – in the second quarter of 2020 there were multiple warnings of famine later in the year. According to early predictions, hundreds of thousands of people would likely die and millions more experience hunger without concerted efforts to address issues of food security.

As of October 2020, these efforts were reducing the risk of widespread starvation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Famines were feared as a result of the COVID-19 recession and some of the measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the 2019–2021 locust infestation, ongoing wars and political turmoil in some nations were also viewed as local causes of hunger.

In September 2020, David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, addressed the United Nations Security Council, stating that measures taken by donor countries over the course of the preceding five months, including the provision of $17 trillion in fiscal stimulus and central bank support, the suspension of debt repayments instituted by the IMF and G20 countries for the benefit of poorer countries, and donor support for WFP programmes, had averted impending famine, helping 270 million people at risk of starvation.



Have We Been Thinking About Long-Haul Coronavirus All Wrong

few years ago, Jaime Seltzer was helping coordinate research projects, grant applications and funding for a Stanford research group studying a condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Up to 2.5 million Americans, including Seltzer, have ME/CFS, and yet it felt like almost no one paid attention to her group’s research. “What is it going to take for researchers to take ME seriously?” she and her colleagues often wondered aloud.

The morbid answer, they hypothesized, was a pandemic. Since ME/CFS often follows viral infections, they feared it would take something as destructive as mass illness for the larger scientific community to take notice.

Unfortunately, this year they were proven right. As the COVID-19 pandemic presses on, doctors are increasingly worried about the significant subset of coronavirus patientsestimated to be somewhere around 10%—who are suffering symptoms like fatigue, brain fog and chronic pain for months on end. Many of them will soon fit the diagnostic criteria for ME/CFS, which is characterized primarily by debilitating exhaustion lasting six months or longer. This flood of potential new ME/CFS patients has, just as Seltzer predicted, thrust her once little-known condition into the spotlight.

No one, least of all Seltzer, would argue that thousands of people becoming chronically ill at once is anything but tragic. The question is whether any good can come from that tragedy. ME/CFS has for decades existed outside the margins of mainstream medical knowledge, historically drawing only a few million research dollars each year—pennies, compared to conditions like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Many doctors know next to nothing about ME/CFS. Nearly every ME/CFS patient has a story about not being believed, or someone trying to convince them their often debilitating symptoms are psychological.

With the world’s attention, and the medical community’s research dollars, directed toward COVID-19, the conversation around long-haul coronavirus could finally change that—if clinicians are ready to take long-haulers and ME/CFS patients seriously, and get to the root of why a viral illness that’s supposed to clear in weeks can linger for decades.

On Christmas Eve 2009, Christina Cooper, 62, developed a flu-like illness. Eleven years later, the registered nurse and once-avid cyclist from Canby, Ore. still suffers symptoms that sound awfully similar to those now associated with long-haul coronavirus. Virtually any amount of physical exertion—even showering—leaves her with a bone-deep, sometimes days-long exhaustion unlike any she experienced before she got sick. Her brain is always foggy, her thoughts always jumbled. She has a chronic sore throat and constant pain. Even her voice changed, weakening into one that sounds frail and sick. She feels like she inherited the body of a 100-year-old, half a century early.

After she got sick in 2009, it took two years of feeling deathly ill for Cooper to find a doctor willing and able to help; several dismissed her outright or had no clue what was wrong with her. That experience isn’t uncommon.

ME/CFS is what’s historically been known in the medical community as a “contested illness”—in other words, an illness some people think is fake. Patients’ lab tests often come back clean despite their debilitating symptoms. And though it often (but not always) follows a viral illness, there’s no agreed-upon cause of ME/CFS. As a result, it’s easy to dismiss as psychological. It takes a certain amount of medical savvy and determination—which is challenging to muster when you’re bedridden—just to get an ME/CFS diagnosis. People of color with symptoms of the condition often have an especially difficult time getting doctors to take them seriously.

Because the condition is so often dismissed, many sufferers reject the name “chronic fatigue syndrome.” Likening the illness to fatigue minimizes it, some patients argue. Fatigue is what you feel after a busy day; ME lands you in bed for a week after going to a doctor’s appointment. Instead, they refer to the condition only as myalgic encephalomyelitis or ME.

Many coronavirus long-haulers have endured similar mistreatment. In long-hauler support groups, there are countless stories of doctors who were skeptical, rude or unhelpful, if not baldly disbelieving. America’s slipshod coronavirus testing system also means many long-haulers can’t prove they had COVID-19 at all—a whole new headache when it comes to securing treatment.

But there is, at least, a critical mass of long-haulers getting sick and speaking out all at once, enough to draw attention from scientists, the media and the general public. Enough of these patients tested positive for COVID-19 or its antibodies to make a strong case that coronavirus is turning into ME/CFS.

“You had it. It’s documented. No one can doubt that. That makes it credible,” says Dr. Anthony Komaroff, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who has treated ME/CFS patients since the 1980s. “If you add that it may affect, ultimately, millions of people in this country alone, I think it certainly should generate new interest and I hope it will.”

For decades, most ME/CFS patients didn’t have that kind of group support. It took until 2015 for the Institute of Medicine to publish a substantial report describing the condition and its diagnostic criteria. According to the IOM’s definition, someone can be diagnosed with ME/CFS if they experience fatigue extreme enough to impair normal activity for at least six months; develop more severe symptoms after exertion; feel little relief from sleep; and suffer either cognitive changes or difficulty sitting or standing upright.

Up to 2.5 million Americans fit that description—as will many coronavirus survivors as their symptoms approach the six-month mark. “The coronavirus pandemic is very likely over time to create almost a pandemic of ME,” says Dr. Ron Tompkins, a surgeon from Massachusetts General Hospital who also researches ME/CFS. Long-haulers who have persistent symptoms related to specific organ damage won’t fit that diagnosis, but thousands of people who now have inexplicable symptoms likely will.

The influx of new patients could go a long way toward figuring out why, exactly, a viral illness can last forever. Though there are multiple theories in the ME/CFS research world, Komaroff believes the cause of the condition can be traced back to a part of the brain that kicks on when you’re sick—the part that saps your energy and appetite so your body can focus all its energy on clearing an infection. “This center in the brain gets flicked on, but for whatever reason it never gets switched off,” Komaroff says. New research efforts spurred by the pandemic could help determine if that’s really happening, and why.

“You need a lot of patients to study anything,” Komaroff says. “We will have enough patients to study at least that kind of ME/CFS that develops following COVID.” Catching people early, relatively speaking, could also help researchers understand why and how a viral illness turns into ME/CFS. Many ME/CFS patients have been sick for years by the time they find a qualified doctor, which makes it hard to work backward and look for biomarkers or inflammatory signals that could offer clues about the disease. In COVID long-haulers, researchers might have a better shot at learning about the condition’s origins, says Dr. Avindra Nath, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who studies ME/CFS.

Already, there’s a registry called You + ME where long-haulers can volunteer for studies. Researchers from the NIH, the Open Medicine Foundation and other groups are also studying the relationship between long-haul coronavirus and ME/CFS. And in May, Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin introduced a bill that would channel NIH funding toward studies examining the connection between ME/CFS and coronavirus. The bill has yet to clear either the House of Representatives or the Senate.

This burst of activity could have a significant impact, not only for ME/CFS patients but for people with other contested illnesses, like chronic Lyme disease and fibromyalgia. “The big issue diseases always overshadow the smaller ones,” says Dr. John Aucott, a chronic Lyme disease expert at Johns Hopkins University. “All the focus of everything is now on COVID”—but with that focus now extended to include long-haul coronavirus, there may be a ripple effect for similar chronic fatigue conditions that historically get little attention. Belief in long-haul coronavirus could translate to belief in other contested illnesses.

But for people who have been in the ME/CFS community for a long time, it’s hard to get too optimistic. Seltzer, who now directs scientific and medical outreach for the advocacy group Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Action Network, has seen flurries of interest in ME/CFS before. One came after the National Academy of Medicine’s report on the condition in 2015. Over the next five years, little changed. Research moves slowly, especially when there’s minimal money attached. Even with new studies underway, treatments may be years off in a best-case scenario.

The medical system also isn’t ready for an influx of ME/CFS patients. Already, there aren’t enough knowledgeable doctors to treat the country’s ME/CFS patients. (Treatment mostly consists of symptom relief, since there’s no known cure.) If the number of patients doubles, Komaroff isn’t sure what will happen.

Tompkins adds that any progress for ME/CFS patients will hinge on doctors definitively determining that coronavirus can turn into ME/CFS, rather than making post-coronavirus syndrome a separate diagnosis. “It would be a disservice to make post-COVID something special,” he says, because ME/CFS patients wouldn’t share the benefits. “I don’t think there’s a nickel of difference between the two,” he adds.

Already, Seltzer says, she’s seen some long-haulers reject the idea that they’re developing ME/CFS. It’s hard to understand how a new virus leads to an old condition, for one thing. And with all the stigma attached to ME/CFS, and its long history of doubt and disbelief, Seltzer says some long-haulers don’t want it to be their diagnosis. “Who would want to inherit the history of this disease?” she says.

Cooper, the ME/CFS patient from Oregon, finds herself thinking of that history often when she reads about coronavirus long-haulers. She can’t help but feel conflicted, in some moments, by all the attention thrown their way when there was none for her. “What happened to me?” she wonders. “Why wasn’t I believed?”

There’s no way to go back and time and make Cooper’s doctors believe her, nor any way to reclaim the last decade of her life. But there is reason to believe the sudden interest in long-haul coronavirus will help provide answers and legitimacy for the millions of people out there with ME/CFS, and the millions more who will develop it in the coming years. And that, Cooper says, makes the bitter pill easier to swallow. “I’m very hopeful that this opens the door to more research,” she says, “and [vindication for] all of us who got the flu and had a door closed on our lives.”

By: Jamie Ducharme



Subscribe here: Full Episodes: | The Long Haul (2020) In the fight against COVID-19, working out why the disease attacks people differently is vital. It’s so sneaky, because as often as it kills it can also be completely benign. But there’s also another group of sufferers: an increasing number for whom recovering from the disease is not the end of their ordeal, it’s just the beginning. They’re not regaining normal health, which means tasks as simple as walking up a flight of stairs continue to be a struggle. As Tom Steinfort reports, the great worry for scientists is that these so-called COVID long-haul victims might bear the scars of the pandemic for the rest of their lives. WATCH more of 60 Minutes Australia: LIKE 60 Minutes Australia on Facebook: FOLLOW 60 Minutes Australia on Twitter: FOLLOW 60 Minutes Australia on Instagram: For forty years, 60 Minutes have been telling Australians the world’s greatest stories. Tales that changed history, our nation and our lives. Reporters Liz Hayes, Tom Steinfort, Tara Brown, Liam Bartlett and Sarah Abo look past the headlines because there is always a bigger picture. Sundays are for 60 Minutes. #60MinutesAustralia



Hair Loss Is The COVID-19 Side Effect No One Saw Coming

When health experts list the potential long-term side effects of COVID-19, a loss of taste and smell, debilitating headaches, and lethargy seem to be the most common. But nearly six months after the virus first took hold in the west, some survivors are beginning to notice another lingering repercussion: hair loss.

You might have seen actress Alyssa Milano speak openly about her firsthand experience with hair loss following a coronavirus diagnosis. In a video shared to Twitter, Milano brushed her hair and showed the camera just how many strands came loose in a single stroke. She isn’t alone: Head to Reddit and Twitter, and you’ll see countless threads where individuals discuss hair loss as a potential post-COVID side effect.

“I have quite fine hair, but it has never come out in my hands before,” Vanessa, a coronavirus survivor, tells Refinery29. “I would never see a hair at the bottom of the shower or around the house. It just didn’t fall out at all — until now. Initially I put it down to stress, but when a friend messaged me asking if my hair loss experience mirrored hers after contracting coronavirus, I realized it probably wasn’t.”

While symptoms such as exhaustion, sensitivity, and a loss of taste and smell have passed for Vanessa, who is 36, she’s still experiencing hair loss months down the line. “It’s generally all over, rather than in specific areas,” she says of the shedding. “I’m baffled. In quarantine, I bought some really nice hair masks and products. I haven’t colored my hair for months, I’m washing it less, and I haven’t used heat on it since February. I thought my hair would do really well, but it’s shedding more.”

What is stress-induced hair loss and why does it occur?

Dermatologists and hair loss experts have, in fact, noticed an uptick in reported cases since coronavirus. “Typically, temporary hair loss, otherwise known as telogen effluvium or TE, will start two to four months after a triggering event such as stress,” says Simone Thomas, a hair loss specialist. The list of such events includes grief, shock, childbirth, and illness; anything from a major surgical procedure to extreme weight loss can contribute, too.

Dr. Zainab Laftah, consultant dermatologist at HCA The Shard, adds, “A disturbance in the hair cycle causes the hairs to shift from the growing phase to the shedding phase. This results in sudden hair loss, which affects hair thickness all over the scalp.”

Can coronavirus cause hair loss?

We still don’t know exactly how coronavirus might impact our bodies longterm, so the research surrounding its contribution to hair loss is scarce. Dr. Laftah says she’s noticed firsthand a number of patients presenting with hair loss roughly three months after a short-lived coronavirus bout or from quarantine-induced stress.

“A Spanish journal recently …read more