Global hunger rises for first time in decade: UN agen­cies

The Jakarta Post - - WORLD - Alex Whit­ing

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.

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