UN: One in nine persons still goes hungry worldwide
We are mesmerized by President Donald Trump’s trade wars and stridently nationalist policies but the real crises of today’s world are the 2 billion people who do not have access to enough nutritious food to lead healthy lives.
One in 9 persons around the world faces hunger, despite abundant technologies to bring this scourge down to zero by 2030. The number of hungry people in the world is back up to where it was nearly a decade ago, a new UN report says.
Economic slowdown, climate change, income inequalities and conflict are the main drivers of hunger and they continue without relent.
Hunger has increased in many countries where the economy has slowed or contracted, particularly in middle-income countries. But the greatest threat is where there is a combination of drivers – conflict, climate change and economic marginalization.
When available, food and diets are unhealthy so obesity causes four million deaths a year worldwide. The various forms of malnutrition are intertwined throughout the life cycle, with maternal undernutrition, low birthweight and child stunting giving rise to increased risk of overweight later in life.
Regrettably, such suffering by the weak does not make headlines riveting enough for leaders to take time out on their political quarrels and think through these avoidable tragedies. The facts are irrefutable and the dimensions of hunger are well known. The shameful lack is of the political will to do what it takes to provide affordable and nutritious food to everyone who needs it.
The new report is the world’s most reliable source of numbers and analysis on hunger and malnutrition. Called The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019, it is published yearly and researched jointly by UN agencies FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WHO and WFP.
With one in five people hungry, Africa is the most affected region. In Eastern Africa, undernourishment is close to a third.
The largest number of undernourished people (more than 500 million) live in Asia. Western Asia, which includes Syria and Yemen, shows a continuous increase since 2010, with more than 12 percent of its population undernourished today. Hunger is also slowly rising in Latin America and the Caribbean, although its prevalence is still below 7 percent.
Currently, conflict is the main driver of the hunger crisis in the Central African Republic, Palestine and Iraq. Climate is the main driver in Madagascar, Mozambique, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Malawi. Conflict and climate change are the main drivers in Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan, Chad, DRC, South Sudan and Yemen.
According to the latest estimates, 9.2 percent of the world population (or slightly more than 700 million people) was exposed to severe levels of food insecurity in 2018. People facing severe food insecurity have likely run out of food, experienced hunger and, at the most extreme, gone for days without eating, putting their health and well-being at grave risk.
An additional 17.2 percent of the world population, or 1.3 billion people, have experienced food insecurity at moderate levels, meaning they did not have regular access to nutritious and sufficient food. The combination of moderate and severe levels of food insecurity brings the estimated total to 26.4 percent of the world population, amounting to about 2 billion people.
People experiencing moderate food insecurity face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have been forced to reduce the quality and quantity of food they consume. They do not have consistent access to food, which diminishes dietary quality, disrupts normal eating patterns, and can have negative consequences for nutrition, health and well-being.
Hunger has been on the rise in many countries where the economy has slowed down or contracted. Between 2011 and 2017, the rise coincided with an economic slowdown or downturn in 65 out of 77 countries.
Economic downturns worsen food insecurity at all levels. More than 96 million people in 33 countries who suffered from acute food insecurity in 2018 lived through rising unemployment, lack of regular work, currency depreciation and high food prices. The economy of most of these countries (27 out of 33) was contracting, according to their real GDP per capita growth for 2015–2017.
The report does not say so but we know that the policies of the world’s most powerful governments have a hand in all of the drivers of hunger: food insecurity, poor nutrition, climate, poverty, inequality and marginalization. Some blame lies at Trump’s door because his protectionist trade policies and saber rattling against China and Iran are worsening the uncertainties that fuel economic slowdowns and downturns in other countries. His policies on climate change are adding to these burdens.