There are now an estimated 735 million people worldwide facing hunger, and Africa remains the most at-risk region when it comes to the global hunger crisis, according to the latest “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report published by five United Nations specialized agencies. This constitutes an increase of 122 million people compared to 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The five U.N. agencies that published the report are collectively warning that if the hunger crisis continues, one of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals of ending hunger by 2030 will not be reached. “Hunger is rising while the resources we urgently need to protect the most vulnerable are running dangerously low. We are facing the greatest challenge we’ve ever seen. We need the global community to act swiftly, smartly and compassionately to reverse course and turn the tide on hunger,” World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director Cindy McCain said.
“At WFP, we are committed to working with all our partners — both old and new — to create a world where no one questions when their next meal will come,” she said. While the officials noted in their report that the enduring hunger crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic, repeated weather shocks and conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Alvaro Lario released a statement insisting that a world without hunger can be achieved with strategic investments and political will. “A world without hunger is possible,” Lario said. “What we are missing is the investments and political will to implement solutions at scale. We can eradicate hunger if we make it a global priority. Investments in small-scale farmers and in their adaptation to climate change, access to inputs and technologies, and access to finance to set up small agribusinesses can make a difference.”
“Small-scale producers are part of the solution. Properly supported, they can produce more food, diversify production, and supply both urban and rural markets — feeding rural areas and cities nutritious and locally grown food.” In 2020, as the pandemic began to unfold, David Beasley, then-head of WFP, warned in a presentation to the U.N. Security Council that the number of people suffering from hunger could go from 135 million to more than 250 million. He described the coronavirus pandemic as “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.” He predicted an estimated 300,000 people could begin starving to death daily in “multiple famines of biblical proportions.” The latest report shows that while hunger was reduced in Asia and Latin America, it was still rising in Western Asia, the Caribbean and throughout all subregions of Africa in 2022. About one in five people in Africa are facing hunger, which is more than twice the global average.
“There are rays of hope, some regions are on track to achieve some 2030 nutrition targets. But overall, we need an intense and immediate global effort to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message at the report’s release event at the U.N. Headquarters in New York City. “We must build resilience against the crises and shocks that drive food insecurity from conflict to climate.” In addition to the global hunger crisis, the report highlights that more than 3.1 billion, or 42% of the world’s population, could not afford a healthy diet in 2021. This figure represents an increase of 134 million more people than in 2019. With urbanization trends showing that nearly seven in 10 people will be living in cities by 2050, the agencies highlighted disparities between rural and urban populations and how urbanization influences agrifood systems.
The report warns of the growing consumption of highly processed foods and that food insecurity is more prevalent in rural areas than urban ones. A higher incidence of child malnutrition was noted in rural than urban areas, while overweight children were found to be slightly more prevalent in urban areas. “Malnutrition is a major threat to children’s survival, growth and development. The scale of the nutrition crisis demands a stronger response focused on children, including prioritizing access to nutritious and affordable diets and essential nutrition services, protecting children and adolescents from nutrient-poor, ultra-processed foods, and strengthening food and nutrition supply chains including for fortified and therapeutic foods for children,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus added. “We need targeted public policies, investments and actions to create healthier food environments for all.”
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