More Than 820m People Hungry Globally, Says UN

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By Ugo Aliogo

The United Nations State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report has disclosed that an estimated 820 million people did not have enough food to eat in 2018.

This was an increase from 811 million in the previous year, which was the third year of increase in a row.

The development underscored the immense challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.
According to the report, the pace of progress in halving the number of children who were stunted and in reducing the number of babies born with low birth weight was too slow, which also puts the SDG 2 nutrition targets further out of reach.

“At the same time, adding to these challenges, overweight and obesity continue to increase in all regions, particularly among school-age children and adults. The chances of being food insecure are higher for women than men in every continent, with the largest gap in Latin America,” the report stated.

“Our actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder, not only in scale but also in terms of multisectoral collaboration,” the heads of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged in their joint foreword to the report.

The report explained that hunger was increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade.

It added that the annual UN report also found that income inequality was rising in many of the countries where hunger was on the rise, making it even more difficult for the poor, vulnerable or marginalised to cope with economic slowdowns and downturns.

“We must foster pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities and set ourselves on track to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” the UN leaders said.

According to the report, “The situation is most alarming in Africa, as the region has the highest rates of hunger in the world and which are continuing to slowly but steadily rises in almost all sub regions.

“In Eastern Africa in particular, close to a third of the population (30.8 percent) is undernourished. In addition to climate and conflict, economic slowdowns and downturns are driving the rise. Since 2011, almost half the countries where rising hunger occurred due to economic slowdowns or stagnation were in Africa.

“The largest number of undernourished people (more than 500 million) lives in Asia, mostly in southern Asian countries. Together, Africa and Asia bear the greatest share of all forms of malnutrition, accounting for more than nine out of ten of all stunted children and over nine out of ten of all wasted children worldwide. In southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, one child in three is stunted.

“In addition to the challenges of stunting and wasting, Asia and Africa are also home to nearly three-quarters of all overweight children worldwide, largely driven by consumption of unhealthy diets.

“This year’s report introduces a new indicator for measuring food insecurity at different levels of severity and monitoring progress towards SDG 2: the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity. This indicator is based on data obtained directly from people in surveys about their access to food in the last 12 months, using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). People experiencing moderate food insecurity face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have had to reduce the quality and/or quantity of food they eat to get by.

“It has been estimated that over 2 billion people, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. But irregular access is also a challenge for high-income countries, including eight percent of the population in Northern America and Europe. This calls for a profound transformation of food systems to provide sustainably-produced healthy diets for a growing world population.”