A United Nations (UN) Report has shown that 821 million people face hunger and over 150 million children are stunted globally, thereby putting efforts to eradicate hunger at risk.
The report said that evidence had continued to signal that the number of hungry people in the world is on the rise growing, hitting 821 million in 2017.
This implies that one in every nine people worldwide is threatened by hunger.
The report, titled: “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018” was released on Tuesday.
A breakdown of the figure showed that the Asian continent has 515 million followed by Africa with 256.5 million while Latin America and the Caribbean has 39 million
It also showed that children under-five years are affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 150.8 million (22.2 per cent); children under 5 affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 50.5 million (7.5 per cent); children under- 5 who are overweight (high weight-for-height): 38.3 million (5.6 per cent); percentage of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 32.8 per cent; percentage of infants aged below 6 months who were exclusively breastfed: 40.7 per cent, and adults who are obese: 672 million (13 per cent)
According to the findings, limited progress is also being made in addressing the multiple forms of malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity, putting the health of hundreds of millions of people at risk.
It said that hunger had been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago, adding that “this reversal in progress sends a clear warning that more must be done and urgently if the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030.”
The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterised Asia seems to be slowing down significantly.
The annual UN report found that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods are among the key drivers of the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.
“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,” the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organizsation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned in their joint foreword to the report.
“If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes,” they said.
According to them, changes in climate are already undermining production of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions and, without building climate resilience, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.”
Analysis in the report showed that the prevalence and number of undernourished people tend to be higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes. Undernourishment is higher again when exposure to climate extremes is compounded by a high proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability, the report said.
Temperature anomalies over agricultural cropping areas continued to be higher than the long-term mean throughout 2011–2016, leading to more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years. The nature of rainfall seasons is also changing, such as the late or early start of rainy seasons and the unequal distribution of rainfall within a season.
The harm to agricultural production contributes to shortfalls in food availability, with knock-on effects causing food price hikes and income losses that reduce people’s access to food.
Also, poor progress has been made in reducing child stunting, the report says, with nearly 151 million children aged under-five too short for their age due to malnutrition in 2017, compared to 165 million in 2012. Globally, Africa and Asia accounted for 39 per cent and 55 per cent of all stunted children, respectively.
The report called for implementing and scaling up interventions aimed at guaranteeing access to nutritious foods and breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.
It advised that policies must pay special attention to groups who are the most vulnerable to the harmful consequences of poor food access: infants, children aged under five, school-aged children, adolescent girls, and women.
At the same time, a sustainable shift must be made towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that can provide safe and high-quality food for all.