World hunger, UN Report: “intensifying as a result of climate change, conflicts and crises”


Wednesday, September 12, 2018
One in 9 people in the world is suffering from hunger, a growing trend for three years that is returning to the same situation a decade ago. Obese people also increase: 1 in 8 adults. The reasons? Climate change and extreme events, conflicts, violence and economic crises. The situation worsens above all in Latin America and in Africa. These are some figures of the report on "The state of food security and nutrition in the world 2018" presented today in Rome at the headquarters of the FAO. The achievement of the "Zero Hunger" goal is delayed by 2030.

World hunger, UN Report:
“intensifying as a result of climate change, conflicts and crises”
Patrizia Caiffa

An estimated 821 million people in the world suffer from chronic hunger (figures refer to 2017), namely one person every 9, on the rise for the past three years, as compared to the historical low of 2014 with 783.7 million. Now we are back to the same situation of ten years ago. On the opposite side of the spectrum we see a rise in obesity, affecting 672 million people, 1 in 8 adults. It’s the most impressive figure contained in the “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018” report presented today in Rome in FAO headquarters – The Food and Agriculture Organization specialized agency of the United Nations -, jointly drawn up by the major five UN agency involved in this area: in addition to FAO the World food programme/PamUnicef agency for children’s rights, Ifad (International Fund for International Development), WHO (World Health Organization). Climate change and climate extremes are the main causes of food insecurity, affecting agricultural production and access to food, along with conflicts, violence and economic crises. For these reasons 151 million children under 5 – 22% – are affected by stunting; 51 million children under 5 are more exposed to diseases and mortality-risk. It is a reversal in progress in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. In fact the situation is growing worse, especially in Latin America and in Africa.

Deleterious effects of unhealthy food. There are various forms of malnutrition “Limited access to nutritious food contributes to undernourishment as well as to overweight and obesity.”

“Risk of low weight at birth, delayed growth and anaemia in pregnant women” are also on the increase. Lack of proper nutrition is a cause of obesity also in school-age girls and in women, “especially in middle and high-income Countries.” “Poor access to nutritious food due to its higher cost, the stress of living with food insecurity, and physiological adaptations to food deprivation help explain why food-insecure families may have a higher risk of overweight and obesity”, underlines the Report. In fact it is a known fact that for poor people food in some cases can become an obsession, and the food they manage to access is of poor quality. Additionally, maternal and infant/child food deprivation can result in foetal and early childhood “metabolic imprinting”, which increases the risk of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

The causes: climate change and conflicts. “In addition to conflicts, climate variability and extreme climate events have a severe impact on food insecurity and malnutrition at global level, and they are among the main causes of global food crisis” states the report. Changes in climate undermine the food production, contribute to shortfalls in food availability and reduce people’s access to food. Thus nutrition is heavily impacted by climate changes resulting in “impaired nutrient quality and dietary diversity of foods produced and consumed; impacts on water and sanitation; health risks and disease; as well as changes in maternal care, child care and breastfeeding.”

Hunger is significantly worse in countries where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture, such as sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural systems are most exposed to the increase in rainfall, rising temperatures and severe periods of drought.

The appeal: “Act now.” These negative signs have led the five UN agency to release a joint appeal: “It is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes.” In order to make up for wasted time in view of the 2030 “Zero hunger” goal, the involved organizations called for “increased partnerships and multi-year, large-scale funding of integrated disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation programmes that are short-, medium- and long-term in scope.”

[Patrizia Caiffa – SIR]