China’s second largest economy, home to about one million people, is grappling with its worst drought in decades.
In its latest official report, the state-run China National Bureau of Statistics said the nation suffered a record-high winter death toll in October, with the country’s total of 3,742 people killed by starvation.
That’s more than the number of deaths caused by air pollution and the number from the worst of the pandemic, which was responsible for nearly 3,000 deaths, or the toll of about 3 million people.
The drought has left some Chinese citizens in dire straits, with a survey released by the Beijing-based Institute of Chinese Social Science showing that a third of the nation’s population was already underweight.
The institute’s survey, conducted in mid-November, found that nearly half of the country has no access to a refrigerator, which is the norm for many.
And in many places, people are struggling to feed their families.
In a city in the northern province of Xinjiang, one in four residents were not able to afford to pay rent, a situation exacerbated by a record high price of food.
The food shortage has also affected the livelihoods of those who rely on it.
“We are getting more and more people in our families, so we have to find ways to get food,” said a 32-year-old woman in a Beijing suburb who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.
“I have to make do with bread, rice, vegetables, noodles, and a bit of meat,” she added.
China’s food crisis has been blamed for an unprecedented drop in birthrates and a sharp rise in infant mortality, which has also increased in recent months.
Experts say China’s food situation is set to get worse before it gets better.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in October that China’s drought is already responsible for the deaths of more than 3,800 children.
China is also suffering from the spread of the coronavirus, which in turn has caused an unprecedented surge in food-borne illnesses, including pneumonia, meningitis, and food poisoning.
But experts say the country still has plenty of time to find a way to solve the problem.
For one, China needs to ramp up its food production to help keep the country supplied with its own food.
“China is the second-largest food producer after the U.S.,” said Wu Jie, a senior fellow at the China Institute of Social Sciences, referring to the world’s two largest economies.
“But that means they are not doing enough to support the domestic production.
They need to boost production and improve the quality of food.”