Global hunger rising, warns UN

19 Jul 19

Some 820 million people - more than one in ten globally - do not have enough to eat and this figure is rising, a major new report by the United Nations has warned.

The number of people suffering from hunger has increased over the past three years, according to the The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report, which was released this week.

Produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF, World Food Programme and the World Health Organization, it reveals that an estimated 820m people do not have enough to eat.

This is up from 811m last year and is the third year in a row that the number has increased.

The report underscores “the immense challenge” facing countries if they are to achieve the Zero Hunger target of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“Our actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder, not only in scale but also in terms of multisectoral collaboration,” according to the report’s foreword, by José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, and the heads of several UN agencies.

It added: “We must foster pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities and set ourselves on track to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition.”

Hunger has risen almost 20% in Africa’s sub-regions, areas which also have the greatest prevalence of undernourishment.

Although the pervasiveness of hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean is still below 7%, it is slowly increasing. In Asia, undernourishment affects 11% of the population.

Hunger is part of a wider problem, the report said. “Over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, including 8 percent of the population in Northern America and Europe.”

The report found that hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international commodity trade.

It warned that efforts to end hunger and malnutrition are being undermined by the “uneven pace of economic recovery and continuing poor economic performance in many countries after the 2008–2009 global economic downturn.”

Children are being badly affected by food insecurity.  “One in seven newborns, or 20.5 million babies globally, suffered from low birthweight in 2015; no progress has been made in reducing low birthweight since 2012,” the report said.

And although the number of under-age-five children affected by stunting has decreased over the past six years by 10%, the pace of progress is too slow to meet the 2030 target of halving the number of stunted children.

Among the report’s recommendations is a call for the “transformation” of agriculture and food systems, so that “the type of commodities and the quality of food that they produce contribute to improving access to more nutritious foods for all.”

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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