Climate extremes push 122 million more people into hunger

A woman walks away with a food-aid ration at a relief distribution centre in Lokitaung on July 31, 2011. Over 122 million more people are facing hunger in the world since 2019.

Photo credit: AFP| POOL

What you need to know:

  • The food security and nutrition situation remained grim in 2022 as per the UN.

Over 122 million more people are facing hunger in the world since 2019 due to the pandemic and repeated climate shocks. This is according to the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, jointly published by five United Nations specialised agencies.

“If trends remain as they are, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending hunger by 2030 will not be reached, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development , the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) , the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) warned.

According to the United Nations, between 691 and 783 million people faced hunger in 2022. This represents an increase of 122 million people compared to 2019.

“Recovery from the global pandemic has been uneven and the war in Ukraine has affected the nutritious food and healthy diets. This is the ‘new normal’ where climate change, conflict and economic instability are pushing those on the margins even further from safety. We cannot take a business-as-usual approach,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said.

“Africa remains the worst-affected region, with one in five people facing hunger on the continent, more than twice the global average,” the UN observed while highlighting that intensification and interaction of conflict, climate extremes and economic slowdowns and downturns combined with highly unaffordable nutritious foods and growing inequalities are pushing the world off track to meet the SDG 2 targets.

“Hunger is rising while the resources we urgently need to protect the most vulnerable are running dangerously low. As humanitarians, we are facing the greatest challenge we’ve ever seen. We need the global community to act swiftly, smartly and compassionately to reverse the course and turn the tide on hunger,” WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain said.

“We need an intense and immediate global effort to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals. We must build resilience against the crises and shocks that drive food insecurity-from conflict to climate” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres through a video message during the launch of the report at the UN Headquarters in New York. The food security and nutrition situation remained grim in 2022 as per the UN.

“The report finds that approximately 29.6 per cent of the global population, equivalent to 2.4 billion people, did not have constant access to food, as measured by the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity. Among them, around 900 million individuals faced severe food insecurity.”

The global body further discloses that millions of children under five continue to suffer from malnutrition: in 2022, 148 million children under five years of age (22.3 per cent) were stunted, 45 million (6.8 per cent) were wasted and 37 million (5.6 per cent) were overweight.

“Progress has been seen in exclusive breastfeeding, with 48 per cent of infants under six months of age benefiting from this practice, close to the 2025 target. However, more concerted efforts will be required to meet the 2030 malnutrition targets.”

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “child wasting remains unacceptably high and there has been no progress in reducing child overweight. We need targeted public policies, investments and actions to create healthier food environments for all.” Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell agreed with Dr Tedros.

“Malnutrition is a major threat to children’s survival, growth and development. The scale of the nutrition crisis demands a stronger response focused on children, including prioritising access to nutritious and affordable diets and essential nutrition services, protecting children and adolescents from nutrient-poor, ultra-processed foods, and strengthening food and nutrition supply chains including for fortified and therapeutic foods for children.”