UNITED NATIONS: World hunger rose in 2017 for a third consecutive year, fuelled by conflict and climate change, the United Nations warned on Tuesday, jeopardizing a global goal to end the scourge by 2030.
Major U.N. agencies said in an annual report Tuesday that the number of hungry people facing chronic food deprivation increased to 821 million in 2017 from 804 million in 2016, reversing recent downward trends. South America and Africa showed the worst increase.
The agencies involved were: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO).
“This message today should frighten the world,” David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme, said.
Beasley, an American national, acknowledged that climate change as well as conflict were fueling the rise in malnutrition globally.
“We now have three years of global hunger or chronic deprivation”, Cindy Holleman, Senior Economist at FAO, said “Many governments and organizations had made a lot of achievements in reducing hunger and it had been falling for 10-15 years,” she said, adding that “the levels of hunger are now where they were, almost a decade ago.”
Noting that “this is an alarming signal,” she explained that the increase is mostly due to three drivers across the world: the intensification of conflict, an economic downturn and the effects of climate change.
The report emphasizes that climate variability and extremes are already undermining food production in some regions and, if action to mitigate disaster risk reduction and preparedness is not taken, the situation will only get worse as temperatures are expected to continue to rise and become more extreme.
“We must also keep in mind that the underlying factors or causes of hunger are also poverty, and inequalities and marginalization”, Ms. Holleman added, stressing that, as the world works to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing these root causes will be as critical as implementing peace and climate resilience initiatives.
The report reveals that while some progress continues to be made in reducing child stunting, levels remain very high with nearly 151 million children aged under five “ 22 per cent “ affected by stunting. In addition, wasting continues to affect over 51 million children aged under five which places them at higher risk of morbidity and mortality.
Regarding adult obesity, the report highlights that the situation is also getting worse. More than one in eight adults in the world is now endangering their health from being overweight; or more than 672 million.
Analysis in the report found that climate variability ” extreme droughts and floods ” are already undermining production of wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions, and that the trend is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.
With hunger on the rise for the past three years, the report called for policies to target groups most vulnerable to malnutrition , including infants,children, adolescent girls and women. It called for greater efforts to promote polices that help communities adapt to climate change and build resilience.Beasley said if the world is failing today with a population at 7.5 billion and all the wealth and technology that is available, “wait until people 30 years from now ” when we have 10 billion people, when people in London, in Washington, D.C., and Chicago and Paris ” when they don’t have enough to eat.”
At the same time as hunger is increasing globally, rates of adult obesity are on the rise, most significantly in North America. Both under nutrition and obesity can exist in the same household, the report said, since poor access to affordable, nutritious food can increase risks for obesity.