State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019
by WFP, FAO, Unicef, WHO, IFAD
9:40am 16th Jul, 2019
An estimated 820 million people did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year, which is the third year of increase in a row.
This underscores the immense challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger by 2030, says a new edition of the annual The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released today.
The pace of progress in halving the number of children who are stunted and in reducing the number of babies born with low birth weight is too slow, which also puts the SDG 2 nutrition targets further out of reach, according to the report.
At the same time, adding to these challenges, overweight and obesity continue to increase in all regions, particularly among school-age children and adults.
The chances of being food insecure are higher for women than men in every continent, with the largest gap in Latin America.
"Our actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder, not only in scale but also in terms of multisectoral collaboration," the heads of the United Nations 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) urged in their joint foreword to the report.
Hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade.
The annual UN report also found that income inequality is rising in many of the countries where hunger is on the rise, making it even more difficult for the poor, vulnerable or marginalized to cope with economic slowdowns and downturns.
"We must foster pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities and set ourselves on track to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition," the UN leaders said.
Slow progress in Africa and Asia
The situation is most alarming in Africa, as the region has the highest rates of hunger in the world and which are continuing to slowly but steadily rise in almost all subregions. In Eastern Africa in particular, close to a third of the population (30.8 percent) is undernourished.
In addition to climate and conflict, economic slowdowns and downturns are driving the rise. Since 2011, almost half the countries where rising hunger occurred due to economic slowdowns or stagnation were in Africa.
The largest number of undernourished people (more than 500 million) live in Asia, mostly in southern Asian countries. Together, Africa and Asia bear the greatest share of all forms of malnutrition, accounting for more than nine out of ten of all stunted children and over nine out of ten of all wasted children worldwide. In southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, one child in three is stunted.
In addition to the challenges of stunting and wasting, Asia and Africa are also home to nearly three-quarters of all overweight children worldwide, largely driven by consumption of unhealthy diets.
This year's report introduces a new indicator for measuring food insecurity at different levels of severity and monitoring progress towards SDG 2: the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity.
This indicator is based on data obtained directly from people in surveys about their access to food in the last 12 months, using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).
People experiencing moderate food insecurity face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have had to reduce the quality and/or quantity of food they eat to get by.
The report estimates that over 2 billion people, mostly in low and middle-income countries, do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food.
But irregular access is also a challenge for high-income countries, including 8 percent of the population in Northern America and Europe.
This calls for a profound transformation of food systems to provide sustainably-produced healthy diets for a growing world population.
To safeguard food security and nutrition, the 2019 report stresses the importance of economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles when they arrive, while avoiding cuts in essential services.
The report highlights that the uneven pace of economic recovery is undermining efforts to end hunger and malnutrition, with hunger increasing in many countries where the economy has slowed down or contracted.
The report also found that income inequality is rising in many of the countries where hunger is on the rise, making it even more difficult for the poor, vulnerable or marginalized to cope with economic slowdowns and downturns.
Economic slowdowns or downturns disproportionally undermine food security and nutrition where inequalities are greater.
Income inequality increases the likelihood of severe food insecurity, and this effect is 20 per cent higher for low-income countries compared with middle-income countries, the report spells out.
The report concludes with guidance on what short and long-term policies must be undertaken to safeguard food security and nutrition during episodes of economic turmoil or in preparation for them, such as integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts using pro-poor and inclusive structural transformations.
Key facts and figures:
Number of hungry people in the world in 2018: 821.6 million (or 1 in 9 people). In Asia: 513.9 million. In Africa: 256.1 million. In Latin America and the Caribbean: 42.5 million
Number of moderately or severely food insecure: 2 billion (26.4%)
Babies born with low birth weight: 20.5 million (one in seven). Children under 5 affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 148.9 million (21.9%) Children under 5 affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 49.5 million (7.3%).
1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor, by Achim Steiner, Sabina Alkire. - report from UNDP, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative
There are vast inequalities across countries, and among the poorer segments of societies, says a new UN report published this week.
The 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), shows that, in the 101 countries studied - 31 low income, 68 middle income and 2 high income - 1.3 billion people are multidimensionally poor (which means that poverty is defined not simply by income, but by a number of indicators, including poor health, poor quality of work and the threat of violence).
Poverty is everywhere, inequality within countries is massive.
Action against poverty is needed in all developing regions, the report states, noting that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are home to the largest proportion of poor people, some 84.5 per cent.
Within these regions, the level of inequality is described as massive: in Sub-Saharan Africa it ranges from 6.3 per cent in South Africa to 91.9 per cent in South Sudan. The disparity in South Asia is from 0.8 per cent in the Maldives, to 55.9 per cent in Afghanistan.
Many of the countries studied in the report show extensive internal levels of inequality: in Uganda, for example, the incidence of multidimensional poverty in the different provinces, ranges from six per cent in Kampala, to 96.3 per cent in Karamoja.
Children bear the greatest burden
Over half of the 1.3 billion people identified as poor, some 663 million, are children under the age of 18, and around a third (some 428 million) are under the age of 10.
The vast majority of these children, around 85 per cent, live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, split roughly equally between the two regions. The picture is particularly dire in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger and South Sudan, where 90 per cent or more of children under the age of 10, are considered to be multidimensionally poor.
One section of the report evaluates the progress that is being made in reaching Goal 1 of the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, namely ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere.
The report identifies 10 countries, with a combined population of around 2 billion people, to illustrate the level of poverty reduction, and all of them have shown statistically significant progress towards achieving Goal 1. The fastest reductions were seen in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
Pedro Conceicao, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP, told UN News that the report gives a more comprehensive picture of poverty, and gives an indication of where to target policies that may address the dimensions in which people are deprived, whether it's education, health, or other aspects that could enable people to be lifted out of poverty if these investments are made.
However, the report notes that no single measure is a sufficient guide to both inequality and multidimensional poverty, and that studies such as the MPI, Human Development Index, Gini coefficient (which measures countries wealth income distribution) and the Palma Ratio, can each contribute important and distinctive information for policy action to effectively reduce poverty.
This year's MPI results show that more than two-thirds of the multidimensionally poor some 886 million people live in middle-income countries. A further 440 million live in low-income countries. In both groups, data shows, simple national averages can hide enormous inequality in patterns of poverty within countries.
For instance, in Uganda 55 percent of the population experience multidimensional poverty; similar to the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. But Kampala, the capital city, has an MPI rate of six percent, while in the Karamoja region, the MPI soars to 96 percent; meaning that parts of Uganda span the extremes of Sub-Saharan Africa.
There is even inequality under the same roof. In South Asia, for example, almost a quarter of children under five live in households where at least one child in the household is malnourished and at least one child is not.
We need to understand people's different experiences of deprivation. Are they malnourished? Can they go to school? Only then will poverty reduction policies be more effective, said Pedro Conceicao.
Deprivations among the poor vary significantly: in general, higher MPI values go hand in hand with greater variation in the intensity of poverty.
Results also show that children suffer poverty more intensely than adults and are more likely to be deprived in all 10 of the MPI indicators, lacking essentials such as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education.
Even more staggering, worldwide, one in three children is multidimensionally poor, compared to one in six adults. That means that nearly half of the people living in multidimensional poverty; 663 million are children, with the youngest children bearing the greatest burden.
But the new data also reveals an encouraging trend in some countries with those furthest behind moving up faster.
We looked at data for a group of ten middle- and low-income countries and we found encouraging news that the bottom 40 percent were moving faster than the rest, says Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director. A pro-poor pattern that reduces inequalities in several Sustainable Development Goals.
Within these ten countries, data show that 270 million people moved out of multidimensional poverty from one survey to the next. This progress was largely driven by South Asia: in India there were 271 million fewer people in poverty in 2016 than in 2006, while in Bangladesh the number dropped by 19 million between 2004 and 2014.
In other countries there was less or no absolute reduction, with numbers of multidimensionally poor rising by 28 million across the three African countries considered.
The 2019 global MPI paints a detailed picture of poverty for 101 countries and 1,119 subnational regions covering 76 percent of the global population, going beyond simple income-based measures to look at how people experience poverty every day.
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