The emerging global food crisis could lead to millions of deaths, according to the leader of a global health network.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has severely disrupted global food supplies by taking grain grown in Ukraine and much of that grown in Russia off of the market.
The food shortage produces a one-two punch that will take its toll on the world’s poorest people, according to Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria said this week, according to Barron’s.
“I think we’ve probably already begun our next health crisis. It’s not a new pathogen but it means people who are poorly nourished will be more vulnerable to the existing diseases,” he said in an interview in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.
“I think the combined impact of infectious diseases and the food shortages and the energy crisis… we can be talking about millions of extra deaths because of this,” he said.
Sands has been trying to make the case that the indirect impact of a food shortage will be a massive health crisis.
“Food shortages work in two ways. One is you have the tragedy of people actually starving to death. But second is you have the fact that often much larger numbers of people are poorly nourished, and that makes them more vulnerable to existing diseases,” he said, according to Reuters.
Sands said that health care at the grassroots must be funded globally.
“That means focusing on primary healthcare so the healthcare that is delivered in the villages, in the communities. Hospitals are important but when you are faced with this kind of challenge, the most important thing is primary healthcare,” he said, according to Barron’s.
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The COVID-19 pandemic pulled resources away from diseases that are taking their toll on the world’s poor, he said.
“The sad truth is that COVID-19 has been the worst thing that has happened to the fight against HIV, TB, and malaria since the Global Fund (an alliance of governments, private sector partners and other investors) was created twenty years ago,” Sands said, according to the Telegraph.
“Deaths from malaria in 2020 increased 12 percent, that meant, in absolute terms, we were back at the level of deaths we had seen in 2012,” he said, “In one year, we lost eight years of progress.”
Sands said that tuberculosis cases have been rising, framing the past two years as “a disaster for TB.”
“In 2020 you saw globally 1.5 million people less getting treated for TB and tragically that means several hundreds of thousands of people will die but also that those people will infect other people,” he said, according to Barron’s.
“It is the poor person pandemic and because of that, it hasn’t attracted the same amount of investment in research and development,” Sands said, referring to tuberculosis.
“This is a tragedy because this is a disease we know how to prevent, how to cure, we know how to get rid of,” he said.
Sands said solving the food crisis is now paramount in aiding the treatment of the world’s second-deadliest infectious disease.