World hunger has increased in three consecutive years – UN

Malnourished children Photo: www.arabiangazette.com
Malnourished children Photo: www.arabiangazette.com

The estimated world population experiencing food insecurity has been on the increase in the last three years as one in nine people did not have enough to eat in 2018, a UN report has shown.

The new annual edition of the global food security report released on Monday said world hunger is still not going down after three years.

Ironically, the report noted that world obesity is also on the rise.

According to the report titled ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’, an estimated 820 million people did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year, which is the third year of increase in a row.

This, it said underscores the immense challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of Zero Hunger by 2030.

The report said that the pace of progress in halving the number of children who are stunted and in reducing the number of babies born with low birth weight is too slow, and this puts the SDG 2 nutrition targets further out of reach.

It also noted that new food challenges are beginning to pop up as overweight and obesity continue to increase in all regions, particularly among school-age children and adults.

Africa and Asia

According to the report, the chances of being food insecure are higher for women than men in every continent, with the largest gap in Latin America.

Ironically, two continents, Africa and Asia, were noted to have the most alarming cases of hunger in the world.

“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,” it said.

It added that one in three children is stunted in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria has the highest population of stunted children in the sub-Saharan African region.

In addition to the challenges of stunting and wasting, the report noted that Asia and Africa are also home to nearly three-quarters of all overweight children worldwide.

This it said is largely driven by consumption of unhealthy diets.

The report shows that the situation in Africa is alarming as it has the highest rate of hunger in the world.

This, the report said is continuing to slowly but steadily rise in almost all sub-regions.

“Since 2011, almost half the countries where rising hunger occurred due to economic slowdowns or stagnation were in Africa.

“Of which, Eastern Africa is worse hit on the African continent as close to a third of the population (30.8 percent) is undernourished.

“This is in addition to climate and conflict, economic slowdowns and downturns are driving the rise”, it said.

The report shows that the largest number of undernourished people (more than 500 million) live in Asia, mostly in southern Asian countries.

In total, an estimated of over two billion people, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food.

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

The report said irregular access to food is also a challenge for high-income countries, including eight per cent of the population in Northern America and Europe.

Solution needed

The heads of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (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) in their joint foreword to the report said “actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder, not only in scale but also in terms of multisectoral collaboration,”

“Hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade.

“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.

The UN leaders called for a profound transformation of food systems to provide sustainably-produced healthy diets for a growing world population.

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