Number of people going hungry has risen by 122m since 2019, UN says
The number of people going hungry in the world has risen by 122 million to 735 million since 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the UN has said.
If current trends continue, almost 600 million people will be chronically undernourished by 2030 – about 119 million more than if neither of these events had happened, a new report has found.
While the numbers of people facing hunger globally have stabilised after increasing sharply from 2019 to 2020, hunger is still on the rise in western Asia, the Caribbean and across Africa, according to the report released by the Food and Agriculture Organiszation (FAO) and four other UN bodies report.
“Recovery from the global pandemic has been uneven, and the war in Ukraine has affected diets,” said Qu Dongyu, the FAO director general. “This is the ‘new normal’ where climate change, conflict and economic instability are pushing those on the margins even further from safety.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a major producer of wheat, maize and sunflower oil, has led to a steep rise in food prices globally, and while the FAO’s food price index has fallen, the impacts are still being felt.
The 2023 edition of the annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report shows a world gripped by a widespread and urgent food crisis.
In 2022, an estimated 900 million people – or 11.3% of the global population – were suffering from severe food insecurity, defined as when a person has run out of food or has gone an entire day without eating during the year.
Nearly one in three people – 2.4 billion, or 29.6% of the world’s population– did not have constant access to food, the report found.
Millions of children continue to be malnourished: in 2022, 45 million children under five were suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, and 148 million children of the same age had stunted growth and development.
Maximo Torero, chief economist at the FAO and the main author of the report, warned that although the climate crisis had not affected hunger levels in 2022 as much as the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, it would have “a severe impact over time”.
Torero said the global food system was plagued by “significant risks and uncertainties” and was “very vulnerable”. Very few countries in the world exported cereals, for example, and if anything were to happen to them in terms of a climate shock, food prices would rise, he said.
“Climate change is a constant problem, a constant vulnerability of the system, because of how concentrated exporting production countries are,” he said.
Pauline Chetcuti, policy lead at Oxfam, said: “It is unforgivable for governments to watch billions of people going hungry in a world of plenty. While food and energy companies more than doubled their profits last year, nearly a third of the world’s population were moderately or severely food insecure.”
Countries in west Africa are seeing a dangerous rise in people without enough food due to the effects of the climate crisis as well as regional conflict, and food prices skyrocketing following Covid and the war in Ukraine, according to the British Red Cross.
“In Nigeria, the number of people facing severe food shortages has doubled in the last two years alone,” said Alex Wade, senior disaster-management coordinator at the British Red Cross.
“An important driver of this has been climate change, which made the devastating floods last year far more likely, destroying crops and further driving up food prices.”
Original source: The Guardian
Image credit: State of food security and Nutrition in the World 2023 - Interview with FAO chief economist, YouTube