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Global hunger continues to rise, new UN report says

Last year SOFI pinpointed conflict and violence in several parts of the world as one of the main drivers of hunger and food insecurity, suggesting that efforts to fight hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace. New evidence in this year’s report highlights that beside conflicts, climate variability and extremes are also a key force behind the recent rise in global hunger. They are also one of the leading causes of severe food crises. 821 million people now hungry and over 150 million children stunted, putting hunger eradication goal at risk

For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger. The absolute number of undernourished people, i.e. those facing chronic food deprivation, has increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016. These are levels from almost a decade ago.

The share of undernourished people in the world population – the prevalence of undernourishment, or PoU – may have reached 10.9 percent in 2017. Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions and worsened the food security, all help to explain this deteriorating situation.

New evidence continues to signal that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 or one in every nine people, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 released today. Limited progress is also being made in addressing the multiple forms of malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity, putting the health of hundreds of millions of people at risk.

Hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago. This reversal in progress sends a clear warning that more must be done and urgently if the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030.

The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterized Asia seems to be slowing down significantly.

The annual UN report found that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.

"The alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we ‘leave no one behind' on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition," the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in their joint foreword to the report

Key facts and figures

  • Number of  hungry people in the world in 2017: 821 million or 1 in every 9 people 
  • in Asia: 515 million
  • in Africa: 256.5 million
  • in Latin America and the Caribbean: 39 million
  • Children under 5 affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 150.8 million (22.2%)
  • Children under 5 affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 50.5 million (7.5%)
  • Children under 5 who are overweight (high weight-for-height): 38.3 million (5.6%)
  • Percentage of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 32.8% 
  • Percentage of infants aged below 6 months who were exclusively breastfed: 40.7%
  • Adults who are obese: 672 million (13% or 1 in 8 adults)

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