The number of undernourished people in the world has increased by more than 60 million people since 2014, a report by key United Nations agencies has said.
According to the report, “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World,” published on Monday, tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past six years and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.
The report was jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to track the progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition.
It estimated that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years. At a minimum, another 83 million people and possibly as many as 132 million may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19.
The global prevalence of undernourishment or overall per cent of hungry people has changed little at 8.9 per cent but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014.
“This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.
“if this trend continues, the number of undernourished people will exceed 840 million by 2030,” it said.
According to the report, in 2019, between a quarter and a third of children under-five were stunted or wasted, too short or too thin.
Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own.
The latest estimates are that a staggering three billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet.
“In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57 per cent of the population, no region including North America and Europe is spared.
“It is unacceptable that in a world that produces enough food to feed its entire population, more than 1.5 billion people cannot afford a diet that meets the required levels of essential nutrients and over 3 billion people cannot even afford the cheapest healthy diet.
“People without access to healthy diets live in all regions of the world, thus we are facing a global problem that affects us all,” it said.
The report also revealed that the world is not on track to achieve the SDG 2.1 Zero hunger target by 2030.
“Five years after the world committed to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off-track to achieve this objective by 2030.” the report said.
The hungry are most numerous in Asia but expanding fastest in Africa. Asia has become the region with the highest number of undernourished people, Africa is second followed by Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Approximately 55.4 per cent of the world’s undernourished people live in Asia, mostly in southern Asian countries followed by Africa with 250.3 million and Latin America and the Caribbean with 47.7 million.
“If current trends persist the distribution of hunger in the world could change substantially turning Africa into the region with the highest number of undernourished people in 2030.
“By 2030, Africa could be home to 433 million undernourished people followed by Asia with 329 million.” the report said.
The report calls on the government to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture, urging a transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and ensure the affordability of healthy diets.
“Policy actions along food supply chains are critical in reducing the costs of nutritious foods. Such actions should enhance efficiencies in food storage, processing, packaging, distribution and marketing, thereby reducing food losses.”
The report argues that a global switch to healthy diets would help backslide hunger while delivering enormous savings.
It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$1.3 trillion a year in 2030 to be almost entirely offset. while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion could be cut by up to three quarters.