World hunger is rising again despite rising wealth in Asia, Africa and South America. At least 815 million people suffer from severe hunger and malnutrition around the world, an increase of 38 million over 2015.

Multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions more worldwide mainly due to violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to a major United Nations report on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. It is signed by the six major UN agencies directly involved in combatting global hunger and its 2016 figures are the latest available.

Some 155 million children aged under five are stunted (too short for their age) and 52 million suffer from wasting (their weight is too low for their height).

“Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature … 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,” a joint statement by the heads of the six agencies says.

“Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.”

This emphasis on the necessity for inclusive societies for an issue often seen as economic echoes the former Obama administration’s view.

It may also be the Trump administration’s view but has not yet been clearly and forcefully stated in the context of global hunger.

The report carries added authority because for the first time, it was issued jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

It is their first since UN member governments approved a new Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which seeks to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030 among other things.

This rising outlook for global hunger is alarming because most of the knowledge and money needed to sharply reduce if not eradicate hunger and malnutrition are easily available.

The current suffering stems from choices made by governments rather than being an inevitable condition as in the past when remedies were not available.

Violent conflicts within and among nations often derive from failures to build inclusive societies, fueling long wars that displace tens of millions from their homes and devastate agriculture. They are manmade and not inevitable.

Climate change, though delivered by natural phenomena, is partly driven by irresponsible and profligate living around the world, including the US, other rich countries and large emerging economies like China and India.

Here are some key numbers:
Hunger and food security
• Overall number of hungry people in the world: 815 million, including:
o In Asia: 520 million
o In Africa: 243 million
o In Latin America and the Caribbean: 42 million
• Share of the global population who are hungry: 11%
o Asia: 11.7%
o Africa: 20% (in eastern Africa, 33.9%)
o Latin America and the Caribbean: 6.6%

Malnutrition in all its forms
• Number of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunted growth (height too low for their age): 155 million
o Number of those living in countries affected by varying levels of conflict: 122 million
• Children under 5 affected by wasting (weight too low given their height): 52 million
• Number of adults who are obese: 641 million (13% of all adults on the planet)
• Children under 5 who are overweight: 41 million
• Number of women of reproductive age affected by anemia: 613 million (around 33% of the total)

The impact of conflict
• Number of the 815 million hungry people on the planet who live in countries affected by conflict: 489 million
• The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 – 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries
• In conflict settings compounded by conditions of institutional and environmental fragility, the prevalence is 11 and 18 percentage points higher
• People living in countries affected by protracted crises are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere

(http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition/en/ )

Brij Khindaria, Foreign Affairs Columnist
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