For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger with the number of undernourished people increasing to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016.
Africa remains with the highest prevalence of undernourishment (PoU), affecting almost 21 percent of the population (more than 256 million people). The situation is also deteriorating in South America, where the PoU has increased from 4.7 percent in 2014 to a projected 5.0 percent in 2017. Asia’s decreasing trend in undernourishment seems to be slowing down significantly. The projected PoU for Asia in 2017 is 11.4 percent, which represents more than 515 million people. Without increased efforts, the world will fall far short of achieving the SDG target of eradicating hunger by 2030, a UN report said.
Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions and worsened the food security, it said. Apart from this, climate variability and extremes are also a key force behind the recent rise in global hunger. They are also one of the leading causes of severe food crises.
Food security and nutrition indicators can clearly be associated with an extreme climate event, such as a severe drought, that critically challenges agriculture and food production. Hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture and where the country does not have in place sufficient support measures to counter the fallout. In other words, for almost 36 percent of the countries that experienced a rise in undernourishment since 2005, this coincided with the occurrence of severe agricultural drought.
Out of 27 countries with increasing change points in the prevalence of undernourishment occurring under severe drought stress conditions, most (19 countries) are in Africa, with the remaining four in Asia, three in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in Eastern Europe.
While hunger is on the rise, it is equally alarming that the number of people facing crisis-level food insecurity continues to increase. In 2017, almost 124 million people across 51 countries and territories faced “crisis” levels of acute food insecurity or worse, requiring immediate emergency action to safeguard their lives and preserve their livelihoods. This represents an increase compared to 2015 and 2016, when 80 and 108 million people, respectively, faced crisis levels.
Many countries have a high prevalence of more than one form of malnutrition. This multiple burden of malnutrition is more prevalent in low-, lower-middle and middle-income countries and concentrated among the poor. Obesity in high-income countries is similarly concentrated among the poor. The coexistence of multiple forms of malnutrition can occur not only within countries and communities, but also within households – and can even affect the same person over their lifetime.
It said access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food must be framed as a human right, with priority given to the most vulnerable to come out of the present situation. Policies must pay special attention to the food security and nutrition of children under five, school-age children, adolescent girls and women in order to halt the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition. A shift is needed towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that provide safe and high quality food, promoting healthy diets for all.
Overall, there has been some progress regarding stunting and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. The number of stunted children has decreased from 165.2 million in 2012 to 150.8 million in 2017, a 9 percent decline. Yet, the number is still unacceptably high and the road to reaching the 2030 target is still long.
In 2017, 40.7 percent of infants below six months of age were exclusively breastfed, up from 36.9 percent in 2012. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding in Africa and Asia are 1.5 times those in Northern America where only 26.4 percent of infants under six months receive breastmilk exclusively.
Conversely, anaemia among women of reproductive age is not improving. The prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age has risen incrementally from 30.3 percent in 2012 to 32.8 percent in 2016 with no region showing a decline. Shamefully, one in three women of reproductive age globally is still affected by anaemia, with significant health and development consequences for both women and their children.
Ín 2017, 7.5 percent of children under five – 50.5 million – were affected by wasting (low weight for height) consequently putting them at a higher risk of mortality. An analysis from 2013 indicated that 875 000 deaths (or 12.6 percent of all deaths) among children under five years of age were related to wasting, of which 516 000 deaths (7.4 percent of all deaths among under-fives) were related to severe wasting. Since 2012, the global proportion of overweight children remains relatively stagnant, with 5.4 percent in 2012 and 5.6 percent (or 38.3 million) in 2017. Of these 38.3 million overweight children, 25 percent live in Africa and 46 percent live in Asia.
Adult obesity, on the other hand, is worsening. Adult obesity rates continue to rise each year, from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 13.2 percent in 2016. This means that in 2017 more than one in eight adults, or more than 672 million, in the world is obese.
The prevalence of obesity among adults in the world has been increasing steadily between 1975 and 2016 – and at an accelerated pace over the past decade. Adult obesity is highest in Northern America and the rate of increase in adult obesity is also the highest there. While Africa and Asia continue to have the lowest rates of obesity,