Global hunger rises for first time in decade: UN agencies
Global hunger levels have risen for the first time in more than a decade, now affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, as conflict, climate change and economic woes bite, United Nations agencies said on Friday.
Last year, 815 million people were hungry — 38 million more than in 2015 — the five agencies said in the first global assessment since governments set an international target to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2030, as one of a set of so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The number of hungry began to rise in 2014, but this is the first time in more than a decade that the proportion of the global population going hungry has risen.
About 489 million of them live in countries affected by conflict.
“Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature,” the heads of five UN agencies wrote in a report called The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. “This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: We will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition.”
Famine struck parts of South Sudan earlier this year and there is a high risk that it could return there and develop in other countries affected by conflict, like northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, the agencies said.
David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program (WFP) described the latest figures as “an indictment on humanity.”
“With all the successes of technology and wealth we should be absolutely going in the other direction,” he said at the release. “We call upon the leaders of the world to apply the pressure that’s necessary to end these conflicts so we can achieve zero hunger.”
The report was produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UNICEF, WFP and the World Health Organization. The agencies called for new ways to achieve the goal of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
“It’s not only about meeting need, but also ending the need and addressing the root causes of hunger,” said Zlatan Milisic, WFP deputy director of programs.
In war-torn countries, it means agencies need to spend more time understanding the complexities of the conflict and working towards building peace, he said.
“We have a lot of research [...] which says food insecurity doesn’t directly lead to conflict, but it is a very powerful trigger [and] food security has been as seen as a contributor to maintaining peace,” Milisic said.
Aid can sometimes increase tensions in a community. For example, unless aid for refugees supports their hosts as well, it may raise tensions with those families — who are often also poor.
Aid programs that create jobs, restore roads and improve farming in countries recovering from war help address root causes of conflict, FAO says.