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Global hunger increases for third consecutive year

21 September 2018

Rise in undernourished almost in line with rise in adult obesity, UN report says


A man using support crutches searches for food among the rubbish in El trigal de Valencia, Carabobo state, Venezuela, on Thursday of last week

A man using support crutches searches for food among the rubbish in El trigal de Valencia, Carabobo state, Venezuela, on Thursday of last week

ONE in nine of the world’s population — about 821 million people — are undernourished, the latest United Nations report on global hunger suggests. It is the third consecutive year that the percentage of undernourished people in the world has risen: from 10.5 per cent in 2014 (783.7 million) to the current figure: 10.9 per cent.

The rise in world hunger is almost in line with the rise in adult obesity. An estimated one in eight adults in the world is obese (more than 672 million people), the report Food Security and Nutrition around the World states.

The report was published last week by the UN children’s charity UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

“In addition to contributing to under-nutrition, the food insecurity we are witnessing today also contributes to overweight and obesity, which partly explains the co-existence of these forms of malnutrition in many countries,” it says.

In the decade from 2005, the prevalence of world hunger dropped from 14.5 per cent of the population (945 million) to 10.6 per cent (784.4 million). The percentage of undernourished people in 2014 was slightly higher than in 2015, owing to a population increase.

The report states that undernourishment and severe food insecurity increased in almost all sub-regions of Africa and South America. It estimates that about 21 per cent of the population of Africa (more than 256 million people), and five per cent of the population in South America (about 21 million people) were undernourished.

“Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate-events in many regions of the world, and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions, and worsened the food security, all help to explain this deteriorating situation,” it says.

“Without increased efforts, the world will fall far short of achieving the SDG [sustainable development goal] target of eradicating hunger by 2030.”

The undernourishment situation was stable in most regions of Asia, where the figure was 11.4 per cent of the population (more than 515 million people) last year.

Obesity, however, is on the rise. Asia represented 46 per cent of more than 38 million children in the world under five years of age who were overweight last year: Africa represented 25 per cent of this global total. Adult obesity was lowest on these continents, but was still increasing.

“The prevalence of obesity among adults in the world has been increasing steadily between 1975 and 2016 — and at an accelerated pace over the past decade,” the report states. “Adult obesity is highest in Northern America, and the rate of increase in adult obesity is also the highest there. While Africa and Asia continue to have the lowest rates of obesity, an increasing trend can also be observed.”

Obesity is also on the rise in Europe: 27.5 per cent of the adult population in Northern Europe were obese in 2016, compared with 25.2 per cent in 2012. Adult obesity in Northern Europe was higher than in Eastern, Southern, and Western Europe in 2016 — 25.8 per cent, 24.6 per cent, and 24.2 per cent respectively — where levels also increased.

In the UK, which is listed under Northern Europe, 29.5 per cent of the adult population were obese in 2016, compared with 26.9 per cent in 2012. The prevalence of severe food insecurity in the total population of the UK was 3.4 per cent on average between 2015 and last year (about 2.2 million people). This was higher than all other European countries listed in the report, except the Republic of Moldova (3.4 per cent), Portugal (3.7 per cent), and Romania (4.1 per cent).

Variables listed in the report included countries vulnerable to climate extremes, including storms, floods, drought, and risk of disaster.

“If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030,” it states, “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.

“Building climate resilience will require climate-change adaptation and disaster risk- reduction and management to be integrated into short-, medium-, and long-term policies, programmes, and practices.”

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