Food distribution in Gode wereda Dolo Baad distribution centre, Somali Region, Ethiopia, August 2017.
Photo: © FAO/ IFAD/ WFP/ Michael Tewe

World hunger on the rise

More than ten per cent of the global population are suffering from hunger. World hunger is on the rise again, driven by conflict and climate change, according to UN experts.

After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, according to the annual United Nations report on world food security and nutrition published in September 2017. This means 815 million people were hungry in 2016, representing 11 per cent of the global population. In Africa, 20 per cent of the population were hungry, in eastern Africa even more than 30 per cent.

According to the UN experts, conflicts are the main driver for hunger, and conflicts are increasingly compounded by climate change. Especially they refer to the El Niño / La Niña- phenomenon. In short: the increase - 38 million more people than the previous year - is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks.

489 million of the 815 million hungry people on our planet live in countries affected by conflict. 155 million children under the age of 5 years are suffering from stunted growth, that means they are too short for their age. 122 million of them live in in countries affected by varying levels of conflict.

Hunger is driven by conflicts

"Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature" according to the experts.  They stressed that some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children in the world are now concentrated in conflict zones.

At the same time, multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions worldwide. 52 million children are suffering from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height. An estimated 41 million children are now overweight.

Anaemia among women and adult obesity are also causes for concern. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits as well as economic slowdowns.

Rural areas suffer most

Most conflicts mainly affect rural areas and their populations, with heavy and negative impacts on agriculture, food systems and livelihoods. In many countries affected by conflict, subsistence agriculture is still central to food security for much of the population.

On average, 56 per cent of the population in countries affected by conflict live in rural areas, where livelihoods largely depend on agriculture. For protracted crisis contexts, the proportion of populations living in rural areas is 62 per cent on average, but can exceed 80 per cent in cases such as Burundi, Ethiopia and Niger.

Since 2000, some 48 per cent of civil conflicts have taken place in Africa, in contexts where
access to rural land is essential to the livelihoods of many and where land issues have played a significant role in 27 out of 30 conflicts.

Download the report: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017

(FAO/ile)