One in nine hungry as world hunger rises again

28th Sep 2018
One in nine hungry as world hunger rises again

(Photo: David Lienemann/Official White House)

Global hunger is on the rise again affecting 11 percent of the world’s population according to the latest UN report.

‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017’.
Global hunger had been on the decline for over a decade but has increased over the past 3 years, which has been attributed to the proliferation of violent conflicts and extreme climate-related events.

The report states that 821 million people in 2017, an increase of 38 million from the previous year, were undernourished. Multiple forms of malnutrition are affecting the health of millions of children and adults worldwide.

The report sends a clear warning that more must be done and urgently if the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030.According to the analysis, over 821 million people globally were undernourished in 2017, which accounts for around 1 in every 9 people on the planet. The statistics show the extent of the problem and highlight the urgent need for action.

Key numbers (WHO report)

The number of hungry people in the world 2017: 821 million, including:
• In Asia: 515 million
• In Africa: 256.5 million
• In Latin America and the Caribbean: 39 million
• No of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunted growthheight too low for their age: 150.8 million
• Children under 5 affected by wastingweight too low given their height: 50.5 million
• No of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 613 millionaround 33% of the total

The report also states that difficulties accessing nutritious food are contributing to the growing problem of obesity in the world, with one in eight adults, more than 672 million, being classified as obese. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits as well as economic slowdowns.

The impact of climate variability

The report noted there has been an increase in the frequency of extreme climate events which have doubled since the early 1990s, with drought and flooding among the key reasons for the rise in hunger in some regions. The analysis in the report shows that the prevalence and number of undernourished people tend to be higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes.

Changes in climate are already undermining the production of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions and, without building climate resilience, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.

In regions where a high proportion of the population is dependent on agricultural systems, situations such as drought and flooding can have devastating effects.

There have been more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years, and the nature of rainfall seasons has also changed, with early or late rainfall and unequal distribution of rain. The effect this can have on food production has several knock-on effects; reduced food availability reduced income for growers and food producers and an increase in food prices. A combination of these factors can reduce people’s access to food.

The report calls for action and interventions aimed at guaranteeing access to nutritious foods, particularly for children, adolescent girls and women, with efforts focusing on building climate resilience through policies that promote climate change adaptations and disaster risk reduction.

“Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature,” the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation said in their joint foreword to the report. They stressed that some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children in the world are now concentrated in conflict zones.

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end,” they said.

Rachel Kayani

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