Global hunger on rise for first time in decade, says UN

The National - News - - NEWS | UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY -

Global hunger lev­els rose last year for the first time in more than a decade, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions, with 11 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion af­fected as a re­sult of con­flict, cli­mate change and eco­nomic down­turns.

Up to 815 mil­lion went hun­gry last year – 38 mil­lion more than in 2015, five UN agen­cies said, in the first global as­sess­ment since gov­ern­ments set a tar­get to elim­i­nate hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion by 2030, as a sus­tain­able devel­op­ment goal (SDG). The num­bers started to rise in 2014, but this is the first time in more than a decade the pro­por­tion of the global pop­u­la­tion go­ing hun­gry has risen.

About 489 mil­lion of those af­fected live in coun­tries scarred 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 said in 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 this year and could re­turn, and also de­velop in other places af­fected by con­flict: north-east Nige­ria, So­ma­lia and Ye­men, the agen­cies said.

David Beasley, head of the World Food Pro­gramme, 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 on the re­lease of the re­port in Rome on Friday. “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 WFP, the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion (FAO), In­ter­na­tional Fund for Agri­cul­tural Devel­op­ment, the UN Chil­dren’s Fund and the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion. They want to find new ways to end 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’s deputy di­rec­tor of pro­grammes. In coun­tries af­fected by war it means agen­cies need to spend more time un­der­stand­ing the com­plex­i­ties of the con­flict and work­ing to­wards build­ing peace, he said.

Re­search showed food in­se­cu­rity “doesn’t di­rectly lead to con­flict, but it is a very pow­er­ful trig­ger”, while food se­cu­rity can help to main­tain peace.

In­tense and pro­longed droughts can in­crease the like­li­hood of con­flict, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. And these are ex­pected to be­come more fre­quent with cli­mate change.

Chil­dren stunted by hunger fell to 22.9 per cent last year, from 29.5 per cent in 2005. About 155 mil­lion un­der five years old are af­fected.

“We see there is a de­cline – we also know that de­cline is not as fast as we would like ... to meet the SDG tar­gets,” said Vic­tor Aguayo, Unicef’s di­rec­tor for nu­tri­tion.

Asia has the largest num­ber of hun­gry peo­ple – 520 mil­lion – and sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa has the high­est pro­por­tion with hunger af­fect­ing a fifth of the pop­u­la­tion.

Jose Graziano da Silva, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of FAO, said: “To save lives, we must save liveli­hoods also. This is the way for­ward that we see to erad­i­cate hunger and ex­treme poverty once and for all.”

To save lives, we must save liveli­hoods also. This is the way for­ward ... to erad­i­cate hunger and ex­treme poverty JOSE GRAZIANO DA SILVA Di­rec­tor-gen­eral, FAO, United Na­tions

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