Food distribution Somali Region, Ethiopia 2017.
Photo: ©FAO/IFAD/WFP/Michael Tewe

Three years of rising hunger

The number of undernourished people in the world has been on the rise since 2014, reaching an estimated 821 million in 2017 due to climate-related issues as well as conflict and economic slowdowns.

World hunger is still rising; more than 821 million or one in every nine people suffered from hunger in 2017. This is the tragic conclusion of the report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 published jointly by the 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) in September 2018.
 
Hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago – a trend that jeopardises achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030. According to the report, undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America, whereas the undernourishment situation is stable in most regions of Asia.

Poor progress in the fight against malnutrition 

Limited progress is 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. Nearly 151 million children aged under five are too short for their age due to malnutrition in 2017, compared to 165 million in 2012.
  
Globally, Africa and Asia accounted for 39 per cent and 55 per cent of all stunted children, respectively. Prevalence of child wasting remains extremely high in Asia where almost one in 10 children under five has low weight for their height, compared to just one in 100 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
   
One in three women of reproductive age globally is affected by anaemia, which has significant health and development consequences for both women and their children. No region has shown a decline in anaemia among women of reproductive age, and the prevalence in Africa and Asia is nearly three times higher than in North America.

Climate change drives hunger

Changes in climate are already undermining the production of major crops in tropical and temperate regions and if climate resilience is not enhanced, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.
  
The analysis in the report shows that the prevalence and number of undernourished people tend to be greater in countries highly exposed to climate extremes. Undernourishment rises again when exposure to climate extremes is compounded by a large proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that are extremely sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability. 
 
Temperature anomalies over agricultural cropping areas continued to be higher than the long-term mean throughout 2011-2016, leading to more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years. The nature of rainfall seasons is also changing, such as the late or early start of rainy seasons and the unequal distribution of rainfall within a season.
 
People in rural areas are extremely vulnerable to climate shocks. The negative impact on agricultural production also negatively impacts the demand for agricultural labour, thus indirectly affecting access to food and income for rural agriculture labourers.

Obesity is also rising

Adult obesity is worsening, and more than one in eight adults in the world is obese. The problem is most significant in North America, but Africa and Asia are also experiencing an upward trend, the report shows.
 
Undernutrition and obesity coexist in many countries, and can even be seen side by side in the same household. 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 be more at risk of overweight and obesity.  

 
(FAO/IFAD/UNICEF/WHO/WFP/ile)
 
More information at the report website The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018:  
www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition/en/