THE number of people hungry around the world has risen for the first time in more than a decade, a new report from the United Nations says.
The report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published last week, says that an estimated 815 million people were hungry last year — an increase of 38 million from the previous year — although down from about 900 million in 2000. Although well below levels of a decade ago, the percentage of the global population estimated to be suffering from hunger increased in 2016, from 10.6 to 11 per cent (it was 14.7 per cent in 2000).
“It is not yet clear whether this recent uptick in hunger and food-insecurity levels signals the beginning of an upward trend, or whether it reflects an acute transient situation,” the report says. “However, reductions in the levels and degree of undernourishment have slowed significantly since 2010.”
The vast majority of the chronically food insecure and malnourished live in countries affected by conflict: an estimated 489 million of 815 million undernourished people, and an estimated 122 million of 155 million stunted children.
Conflicts had been “exacerbated by climate-related shocks”, the report says. “The concurrence of conflict and climate-related natural disasters is likely to increase with climate change, as climate change not only magnifies problems of food insecurity and nutrition, but can also contribute to a further downward spiral into conflict, protracted crisis, and continued fragility.”
Tearfund’s director for global advocacy and influencing, Dr Ruth Valerio, said that the report “should act as a wake-up call to all of us. People are being pushed further into poverty around the world because the climate is changing fast. There are more droughts, more floods, and less reliable rain, which makes it harder for people in poverty to feed themselves.
“This news motivates us all to play our part by minimising our carbon footprints and continuing to call for peace in places where conflict leads to hunger.”
The report, launched in Rome, is the first UN global assessment on food security and nutrition to be released after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which seeks to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.