14 July 2023 - 05:06 AM
Analysis: World Hunger Lower, but Its Elimination Still a Dream
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A no-so-bright spark

Promotional picture of FAO's fight against hunger. Jul. 14, 2023.

After seven years of rising, the number of people suffering from hunger stabilized in 2022, a "modest progress" although insufficient to meet the goal of eliminating this plague in 2030.

As in the previous year, 2.4 billion people were acutely or moderately food insecure in 2022. In other words: three out of 10 people lacked access to adequate food, and more than 3.1 billion people could not afford a balanced diet, leading to malnutrition, deprivation or obesity.

According to a report co-authored by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), some 735 million people suffered from hunger, which represents 9.2% of the world's population in 2022.

The figure, which had been increasing since 2015, stabilized and even recorded a slight decline, with 3.8 million fewer people compared to 2021.

Latin America recorded progress in the fight against hunger, except for the Caribbean region, where the situation worsened, and the social repercussions are nowadays even worse than before the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.

Chronic undernourishment also increased in Western Asia and Africa, says the report, which also bears the seal of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Since 2019, the COVID-19 and the Ukraine conflict added 122 million people to the hunger map.

Africa: the unforgotten region does not see advance

The annual report on the state of food security and nutrition in the world states that in Africa, one in five people are chronically undernourished.

The document is a “snapshot of a world still recovering from a global pandemic and now grappling with the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, which has further shaken food and energy markets,” it says.

The report also warns that unless efforts are better targeted, the goal of “ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030 will remain out of reach.”

Although the post-pandemic economic recovery improved the situation, there is no doubt that this modest progress has been undermined by rising food and energy prices, magnified by the Ukraine conflict.

Latin America and the Caribbean expected the unexpected:

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the prevalence of undernourishment--the indicator that measures hunger--fell from 7% in 2021 to 6.5% in 2022, which represents a decrease of 2.4 million in the number of hungry people.

However, this reduction is explained by the evolution in South America (from 7 to 6.1%), as the Caribbean recorded a remarkable increase from 14.7% in 2021 to 16.3% in 2022.

Latin America is the region where it costs the most to eat healthily ($4.08 per person per day) compared to Asia ($3.90), Africa ($3.57), North America and Europe ($3.22).

Mario Lubetkin, FAO assistant director general, has stated that the shift from importing cheap products to producing quality products remains an unresolved equation in the region.

Hope is the last to lose: we can still rise above hunger

According to the UN, the possibility for populations to access healthy food deteriorated worldwide, due to the prolonged impact of the pandemic and booming food prices, the UN underlined.

Cindy McCain, executive director of WFP, warned that hunger is increasing at the same time that the resources we urgently need to protect the most vulnerable are being dangerously reduced. “We are facing the greatest challenge we have ever seen,” she said.

“There are rays of hope (...). Overall, however, we need an intense immediate global effort to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in an official statement.

If progress is not accelerated, nearly 600 million people could still be suffering from hunger in 2030, mainly in Africa, representing some 119 million more people than if neither the COVID-19 pandemic nor the conflict in Ukraine had occurred.

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