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World Hunger on the rise
by UN News, FAO, WFP, Unicef, GHI, agencies
10:42am 16th Sep, 2017
Sep. 2017
UN agencies warn conflict and climate change are undermining food security, causing chronic undernourishment and threatening to reverse years of progress.
Even in regions that are more peaceful, droughts or floods linked in part to the El Niño weather phenomenon, as well as the global economic slowdown, have seen food security and nutrition deteriorate, highlight the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report.
The number of hungry people in the world has increased for the first time since the turn of the century, sparking concern that conflict and climate change could be reversing years of progress.
In 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people reached 815 million, up 38 million from the previous year. The increase is due largely to the proliferation of violence and climate-related shocks.
The study also noted a rise in the number of people globally who are chronically hungry, from 10.6% in 2015 to 11% in 2016.
Cindy Holleman, a senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said it was hard to know whether the increase was a blip or marked the reversal of a long-term trend. However, she said the rise in conflict and climate change – factors that rank alongside economic slowdown, which makes food hard to access for poor people, as key drivers of food insecurity – was cause for concern.
“Whether it has been a blip and it’s going to go back down again, we’re not sure,” said Holleman. “But we’re sending warning signals. We are sending a message that something is going on.
“If you look at the 815 million [chronically undernourished] people, 489 million or 60% of them are located in countries affected by conflict. Over the last decade we’re seen a significant increase in conflict. We also see that conflict combined with climatic effects is having a significant effect.”
A foreword to the report, written jointly by the heads of the five UN agencies, said: “Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature.
“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.”
Oxfam’s head of food and climate change, Robin Willoughby, said: “This must act as a wake-up call for international leaders and institutions to do more to resolve the catastrophic cocktail of climate change and conflict around the world. Global failure to tackle these issues affects us all, but it’s the world’s poorest who will suffer most.”
The report is the first UN global assessment of food security and nutrition following the adoption of the sustainable development goals, which aim to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
Progress has been made on reducing global hunger, which affected more than 900 million people at the turn of the century. Over the past year, however, hunger has reached an “extreme level” in many parts of the world, with famine declared in South Sudan in February, and Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia considered on the brink.
People living in countries affected by protracted crisis are nearly two and a half times more likely to be undernourished than those living elsewhere, the report said.
Fuelled partly by extreme weather patterns resulting from El Niño, food security “deteriorated sharply” in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, and in south-east and western Asia, said the report.
Chronic child malnutrition continues to fall, but at a slower rate in some regions, the report found. Wasting remains a threat to the lives of 52 million children.
Overweight and obesity rates in children are rising in most regions, and in all regions for adults. Such “multiple burdens” for malnutrition is a “cause for serious concern”, said the report.
Africa has the highest levels of severe food insecurity, affecting 27.4% of the population – almost four times that of any other region. Higher food insecurity was also observed in Latin America, rising from 4.7% to 6.4%.
Oct. 2017
Global Hunger Index 2017 - The Inequalities of Hunger: Report rates Hunger “Serious”, “Alarming” or “Extremely Alarming” in 52 countries.
Global hunger levels have fallen since 2000, but more recent rising hunger scores of several countries in the 2017 Global Hunger Index (GHI) published by Concern Worldwide, Welthungerhilfe and International Food Policy Research Institute underline how uneven this progress has been and how precarious it is to maintain.
Famine has cast a shadow over four countries in the past year while conflict and climate change continue to hit the poorest the hardest. The Global Hunger Index this year indicates that beyond these acute crises, long term obstacles to reducing hunger in several countries may also be threatening efforts to reach zero hunger.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa south of the Sahara, where revised data place the Central African Republic in the “extremely alarming” category – the first time a developing country has fallen into the report’s highest category since the 2014 report.
The country has the same score today as it did in 2000, suggesting any progress made in recent years has been subsequently reversed. Several other countries including Sri Lanka, Mauritania, and Venezuela also have higher GHI scores in 2017 than in 2008, after witnessing falling scores in the previous two decades.
“The results of this year’s Global Hunger Index show that we cannot waiver in our resolve to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030,” said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute.
“We have made progress toward that goal but indications that this progress is threatened emphasizes the need to establish resilience in food systems. We must provide immediate aid to those areas facing the most severe crises, such as famines, and construct policies at the international and national levels to address the structural issues that create persistent food insecurity.”
Amidst some very worrying data there is also some good news. The level of hunger in a number of developing countries decreased by 27 percent since 2000. During the same period, GHI scores of 14 countries, including Senegal, Azerbaijan, Peru, Panama, Brazil and China improved significantly. Angola, Ethiopia and Rwanda—each experienced violent conflict in recent decades—were among 72 countries which improved their GHI scores, making progress from “extremely alarming” levels to “serious levels”.
Declines in average hunger at the regional or national levels obscure some grim realities though. The averages can mask lagging areas where millions are still hungry, demonstrating the need to hold governments accountable not only for investments in timely data but also for building resilience in communities at risk for disruption to their food systems from weather shocks or conflict.
“Conflict and climate related shocks are at the heart of this problem. We must build the resilience of communities on the ground, but we must also bolster public and political solidarity internationally. The world needs to act as one community with the shared goal of ensuring not a single child goes to bed hungry each night and no one is left behind.” said Concern Worldwide CEO Dominic MacSorley.
The Near East region, for example, has an average score at a “moderate” hunger level, but there are deep inequities within the region: Yemen, for example, has the sixth highest GHI score at an “alarming” 36.1.
Other places highlight inequality within countries. In Nigeria, an overall hunger level at a “serious” 25.5 does not fully reflect the wide inequality within its borders: child stunting—an indicator of child undernutrition—ranges from 7.6 percent to 63.4 percent by region.
Latin America’s “low” hunger scores do not tell the story of Venezuela, where political turmoil and ensuing food riots caused hunger to rise by 40 percent from 2008 levels, pushing the country into “moderate” from “low” levels of hunger.
These uneven hunger levels bring into sharp focus this year’s theme of ‘the inequalities of hunger’, which emphasizes the inequalities of social, economic and political power underlying nutritional inequalities.
Groups with the least social, economic, and political power like women and girls, ethnic minorities, and the rural poor often also experience greater levels of poverty and hunger.
"Women often do not have the same access to food although they take over the main responsibility for family meals. They need greater participation and their voices need to be heard in local and national decisions on food policy. This also applies to other vulnerable groups who cannot influence developments and debates on nutrition in their countries" said Bärbel Dieckmann, President of Welthungerhilfe.
Efforts to reduce malnutrition and end hunger are marred by lack of complete data for calculating index scores for 13 countries. Yet the countries with missing data may be the ones suffering most: 9 of these countries have indicators like stunting, wasting and child mortality that raise significant concern for having high hunger levels.
Two of these countries (South Sudan and Somalia) were included in the UN’s declaration of famine and warning of risk of famine. Ongoing conflicts in many of these countries were a factor inhibiting the collection of data necessary for calculating GHI scores.
# The Global Hunger Index (GHI), now in its 12th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. The 2017 report ranked 119 countries in the developing world, nearly half of which have “extremely alarming”, “alarming” or “serious” hunger levels.
The average GHI score for the developing world is 21.8, which is in the low end of the “serious” category. Regionally, South Asia (30.9) has the highest levels of hunger, followed closely by Africa South of the Sahara (29.4).
Of the countries for which scores could be calculated, the top 10 countries with the highest level of hunger are Central African Republic, Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zambia, Yemen, Sudan, Liberia, Niger and Timor-Leste.
Roughly half of the populations of Central African Republic, Haiti and Zambia are undernourished, the highest in the report. In South Sudan, Djibouti, India and Sri Lanka, one-fifth to one quarter of the children under five weigh too little for their height due to nutritional deficiencies. More than half of children under age five are too short for their age in Burundi, Eritrea and Timor-Leste. In Angola, 15 out of every 100 children do not survive beyond the age of five.

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