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  • Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, which compiled the report with four other U.N. agencies

    Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, which compiled the report with four other U.N. agencies | Photo: Reuters/FAO

Published 15 July 2019

"The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World" was produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN agencies including the World Health Organization.

More than 821 million people suffered from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide last year, the United Nations reported Monday - the third year in a row that the number has risen.

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After decades of decline, food insecurity began to increase in 2015 and reversing the trend is one of the 2030 targets of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

But getting to a world where no one is suffering from hunger by then remains an "immense challenge," the report said.

"To safeguard food security and nutrition, it is critical to already have in place economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles when they arrive, while avoiding cuts in essential services, such as health care and education, at all costs," it said.

The authors said a "structural transformation" was needed to include the poorest people in the world, a move they said would require "integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts" while tackling gender inequality and the exclusion of certain social groups.

Malnutrition remains widespread in Africa, where around 20 percent of the population is affected, and in Asia where more than 12 of people experience it. In Latin America and the Caribbean, seven percent of people are affected.

Adding the number of people suffering from famine to those hit by food insecurity gives a total of more than two billion.

But 8 percent of them also live in North America or Europe, the United Nations said, urging governments to “look beyond hunger.” For the first time people in such areas are affected by “moderate food insecurity” as well as outright hunger.

“We need to look beyond hunger,” said Cindy Holleman, senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the report’s editor.

“If we just focus on hunger, we’re going to be missing a lot of the growing problems we’re seeing.”

Moderate food insecurity affects people who have had to reduce the quality or quantity of what they eat due to lack of money or other resources.

It can lead to obesity as well as stunting - a condition that permanently affects children’s mental and physical development.

“Governments are very much oriented to the production side. They believe that if there is food available, people will eat. In a way, that’s not true,” Jose Graziano da Silva told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are not looking at the distribution, the markets, the behaviour of the people, the culture of the people.”

The new data reflects the fact that there are now more obese people in the world than hungry ones - although it also shows that the number of hungry people increased in 2018 for the third year running.

Hunger is on the rise in most of Africa, in parts of the Middle East and in Latin America and the Caribbean, the report said.

The FAO said current efforts were insufficient to meet the goal of halving the number of children whose growth is stunted by malnutrition by 2030.

Around 149 million children currently suffer from hunger-related growth delays.

At the same time, the report notes that obesity and excess weight are both on the rise in all regions, with school-age children and adults particularly affected.

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