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COVID-19 worsening global hunger, displacement, U.N. report warns

A World Food Program staff member is seen interviewing a displaced person at a settlement in Maidiguri, Nigeria. Photo by WFP/Oluwaseun Oluwamuyima
A World Food Program staff member is seen interviewing a displaced person at a settlement in Maidiguri, Nigeria. Photo by WFP/Oluwaseun Oluwamuyima

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- COVID-19 has worsened global hunger and population displacement, a United Nations report released Monday warned.

The joint study by the World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration assessed the pandemic's impact on mobility and food insecurity in migration and hunger hot spots worldwide.

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Global hunger has been on the rise for four consecutive years, mainly due to conflict, and forced displacement has reached record highs, according to the report. The pandemic has worsened the plight amid dwindling remittances and migrants seeking work to support their families.

Remittances, or money sent home by migrants to low or middle-income countries, provide a lifeline for 800 million people -- or one in nine people -- around the world, the report noted. They have fallen 7.2%, according to World Bank estimates in October, due to widespread job losses amid the pandemic.

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The flow of remittances has dropped from a peak of $548 billion in remittances received in households living in lower and middle-income countries in 2019 to $508 billion received this year, and is expected to further decline to $470 billion next year, according to the report.

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"The COVID-19 pandemic has had deep implications for migration and hunger dynamics," Arif Husain, WFP's chief economist and director of research, assessment and monitoring, and Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM's director of operations and emergencies, said in a joint statement in the report. "While overall mobility is expected to decline in 2020 due to the pandemic, it may ultimately increase over time as more people will be compelled to move if they can no longer make ends meet in their current location."

Analysts said that the pandemic has also worsened pre-existing xenophobia, stigmatization and discrimination against migrants.

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Among the recommendations, researchers urged governments to facilitate remittances as an essential financial service that supports response to and recovery from COVID-19 impact, and counter xenophobia, stigmatization and discrimination toward migrants.

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