The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, according to a new UN report that provides fresh evidence that the world is moving in reverse.
The new data shows an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Nations report points to the receding goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development. The number remained stagnant until 2015, the proportion of people affected by hunger witnessed a jump in 2020 and rose to 9,8 percent of the world population by 2021 compared to 8 percent in 2019 and 9.3 percent in 2020.
The report further says, in 2021, the gender gap in food security deepened, with 31.9 percent of women globally facing moderate to severe food insecurity compared to 27.6 percent of males – a difference of more than 4 percentage points from 2020.
The economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to contain it have led to an increase in consumer food prices, depriving around 3.1 billion people of access to a healthy diet in 2020 compared to 112 million in 2019.
A severe form of malnutrition, wasting, which increases a child’s risk of death by up to 12 times, affected approximately 45 million children under the age of five. A chronic shortage of essential nutrients in their diets also resulted in stunted growth and development among 149 million children below the age of five, while 39 million of them were overweight.
Looking forward, Even if a global economic recovery is taken into consideration, projections are that nearly 670 million people (8 percent of the world population) will still be facing hunger in 2030. This number is comparable to that of 2015, when the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was introduced, with the intention of eradicating hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition by the end of this decade.
The ongoing war in Ukraine, involving two of the biggest global producers of staple cereals, oilseeds and fertiliser further impede the problem at hand by disrupting international supply chains and pushing up the prices of grain, fertiliser, and energy, as well as ready-to-use therapeutic food for children with severe malnutrition. While the supply chains are already affected by the increasingly frequent extreme climate events, especially in low-income countries.
“This report repeatedly highlights the intensification of these major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition: conflict, climate extremes, and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities,” the heads of the five UN agencies wrote in this year’s Foreword.
“The issue at stake is not whether adversities will continue to occur or not, but how we must take bolder action to build resilience against future shocks.”
The report was jointly published on 6 July by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).