The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2021 revealed that “some 9.9 per cent of all people were estimated to have been undernourished in 2020, up from 8.4 per cent in 2019’’.
This marks a rise of about 1.5 per cent within a single year, after remaining virtually unchanged for five years.
The experts attributed the increase largely to the crisis unleashed by the pandemic, the effects of which would still require further investigation, they said.
According to the data, the pandemic caused brutal recessions in many parts of the world and made access to food more difficult particularly in countries with ongoing conflicts and climate extremes.
More than half of all malnourished people live in Asia (418 million), more than one third in Africa (282 million), and some 60 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The sharpest increase in the number of people going hungry occurred in Africa; however, where some 21 per cent of the population are more than double anywhere else in the world were undernourished.
However, achieving the international community’s Zero Hunger target by 2030 is now looking significantly more challenging, according to current forecasts.
In particular, drastic measures would have to be taken to eliminate inequalities in food access.
Meanwhile, social protection measures in conflict areas could prevent families from having to exchange their few remaining possessions for food, the report said.
Support programmes in the form of benefits in kind or cash handouts could mitigate food price fluctuations, it continued.
The report also mentioned expanding access to climate risk insurance for small farmers.
However, if nothing changes, UN experts forecast that around 660 million people could still be affected by hunger in 2030, some 30 million more people than predicted before the pandemic.
“We are moving in the wrong direction,’’ the authors said.
In addition to the FAO, the Unicef Children’s Fund, the World Health Organisation, the Ifad Relief Fund and the World Food Programme contributed data to the report. (dpa/NAN)