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