One in every nine people are hungry, UN report says

The announcement of the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) last year was supposed to mark the beginning of a new era in achieving a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. However, despite the continuous campaigns against poverty and the measures taken to ensure global food security and improved nutrition, a report by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that the progress has been slow as 821 million people were still hungry in 2017.

A United Nations report released on Tuesday 11 September on the state of food security and nutrition in the world, shows that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 or one in every nine people. According to the report, limited progress has been made in addressing malnutrition, child stunting and adult obesity and this challenge puts the health of hundreds of millions of people at risk.

The heads of the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) jointly stated in the report that “The alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we leave no one behind’ on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition.”

In the past 3 years, the number of people who suffer from hunger has been growing and recently it has returned to levels from a decade ago. According to the report, the absolute number of people in the world affected by undernourishment, or chronic food deprivation, is now estimated to have increased from around 804 million in 2016 to nearly 821 million in 2017.

This backpedalling is largely due to poor access to healthy food. This lack of access has contributed to undernutrition, overweight and obesity. The higher cost of nutritious foods, the stress of living with food insecurity and physiological adaptations to food restriction help explain why food insecure families have a higher risk of overweight and obesity, the report acknowledges.

When analysing the state of undernourishment by region, the report states that undernourished people are more frequent in some areas as against others due to climate change. The number of undernourished people tend to be higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes such as areas highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability.

As agricultural production is affected, food availability is also affected, hence hikes in food prices and income losses that reduce people’s access to food.  In 2017, lack of access to good food affected many children under five. 1.3 percent are in Latin America, 9.7 percent are in Asia.

Unfortunately, Africa remains the continent with the highest number of Undernourished people as almost 21 percent of its population (more than 256 million people) lack access to a healthy nutrition. Sub-Saharan Africa is even worse because an estimated 23.2 percent of the population, there is a likelihood that 1 in every 5 persons in the region has suffered from chronic food deprivation in 2017.