State of Food Security in World: 821 million people hungry, 150 million children stunted
by WFP, FAO, WHO, IFAD, UNICEF
3:40pm 11th Sep, 2018
New evidence continues to signal that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 or one in every nine people, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 released today. Limited progress is also being made in addressing the multiple forms of malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity, putting the health of hundreds of millions of people at risk.
Hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago. This reversal in progress sends a clear warning that more must be done and urgently if the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030.
The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterized Asia is slowing down significantly.
We now have three years of global hunger or chronic deprivation, Cindy Holleman, Senior Economist at FAO, told UN News in an interview on Tuesday. The levels of hunger are now where they were, almost a decade ago.
The report emphasizes that climate variability and extremes are already undermining food production and, if action to mitigate disaster risk reduction and preparedness is not taken, the situation will only get worse as temperatures are expected to continue to rise and become more extreme.
We must also keep in mind that the underlying factors or causes of hunger are also poverty, and inequalities and marginalization, Ms. Holleman added, stressing that, as the world works to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing these root causes will be as critical as implementing peace and climate resilience initiatives.
The annual UN report found that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.
The alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we 'leave no one behind' on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition, the heads of the UN 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) warned in their joint foreword to the report.
If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people's livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes, the leaders said.
The impact of climate variability and extremes on hunger
Changes in climate are already undermining production of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions and, without building climate resilience, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.
Analysis in the report shows that the prevalence and number of undernourished people is higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes. Undernourishment is higher again when exposure to climate extremes is compounded by a high proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability.
Temperature anomalies over agricultural cropping areas continued to be higher than the long-term mean throughout 2011-2016, leading to more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years.
The nature of rainfall seasons is also changing, such as the late or early start of rainy seasons and the unequal distribution of rainfall within a season.
The harm to agricultural production contributes to shortfalls in food availability, with knock-on effects causing food price hikes and income losses that reduce people's access to food.
Slow progress on ending all forms of malnutrition
Poor progress has been made in reducing child stunting, the report highlights, with nearly 151 million children aged under five too short for their age due to malnutrition in 2017. Globally, Africa and Asia accounted for 39 percent and 55 percent of all stunted children, respectively.
The prevalence of child wasting remains extremely high in Asia where almost one in 10 children under five has low weight for their height, compared to just one in 100 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report describes as 'shameful' the fact that one in three women of reproductive age globally is affected by anaemia, which has significant health and development consequences for both women and their children.
No region has shown a decline in anaemia among women of reproductive age, and the prevalence in Africa and Asia is nearly three times higher than in North America.
The other side of hunger: obesity on the rise
Adult obesity is worsening, and more than one in eight adults in the world is obese. The problem is most significant in North America, but Africa and Asia are also experiencing an upward trend, the report shows.
Undernutrition and obesity coexist in many countries, and can even be seen side by side in the same household. Poor access to nutritious food due to its higher cost, the stress of living with food insecurity, and physiological adaptations to food deprivation help explain why food-insecure families may have a higher risk of overweight and obesity.
Call for action
The report calls for implementing and scaling up interventions aimed at guaranteeing access to nutritious foods and breaking the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition. Policies must pay special attention to groups who are the most vulnerable to the harmful consequences of poor food access: infants, children aged under five, school-aged children, adolescent girls, and women.
At the same time, a sustainable shift must be made towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that can provide safe and high-quality food for all.
The report also calls for greater efforts to build climate resilience through policies that promote climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction.
A few key facts and figures:
Number of hungry people in the world in 2017: 821 million or 1 in every 9 people - in Asia 515 million; in Africa: 256.5 million; in Latin America and the Caribbean 39 million
Children under 5 affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 150.8 million (22.2%). Children under 5 affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 50.5 million (7.5%)
Percentage of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 32.8%
The report is part of tracking progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 - Zero Hunger, which aims to end hunger, promote food security and end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. The report also tracks progress on six of the seven World Health Assembly global nutrition targets.
Last year's report observed that three factors are behind the recent rise in hunger: conflict, climate and economic slowdowns, and provided an in-depth study of the role of conflict. This year's report focuses on the role of climate variability and extremes to explain the observed trends in food security.
Levels & Trends in Child Mortality: Report 2018 from WHO, Unicef, UN Population Division
Children from the highest mortality countries are up to 60 times more likely to die in the first five years of life than those from the lowest mortality countries.
An estimated 6.3 million children under 15 years of age died in 2017, or 1 every 5 seconds, mostly of preventable causes, according to new mortality estimates released by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Division and the World Bank.
The vast majority of these deaths 5.4 million occur in the first five years of life, with newborns accounting for around half of the deaths.
"Without urgent action, 56 million children under five will die from now until 2030 - half of them newborns," said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy. "We have made substantial progress to save children since 1990, but millions are still dying because of who they are and where they are born. With simple solutions like medicines, clean water, electricity and vaccines, we can change that reality for every child."
Globally, in 2017, half of all deaths under five years of age took place in sub-Saharan Africa, and another 30 per cent in Southern Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, 1 in 13 children died before their fifth birthday. In high-income countries, that number was 1 in 185.
"Millions of babies and children should not still be dying every year from lack of access to water, sanitation, proper nutrition or basic health services," said Dr. Princess Nono Simelela, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women and Children's Health at WHO. "We must prioritize providing universal access to quality health services for every child, particularly around the time of birth and through the early years, to give them the best possible chance to survive and thrive."
Most children under 5 die due to preventable or treatable causes such as complications during birth, pneumonia, diarrhea, neonatal sepsis and malaria. By comparison, among children between 5 and 14 years of age, injuries become a more prominent cause of death, especially from drowning and road traffic. Within this age group, regional differences also exist, with the risk of dying for a child from sub-Saharan Africa 15 times higher than in Europe.
"More than six million children dying before their fifteenth birthday is a cost we simply can't afford," said Timothy Evans, Senior Director and Head of the Health Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank. "Ending preventable deaths and investing in the health of young people is a basic foundation for building countries human capital, which will drive their future growth and prosperity."
For children everywhere, the most risky period of life is the first month. In 2017, 2.5 million newborns died in their first month. A baby born in sub-Saharan Africa or in Southern Asia was nine times more likely to die in the first month than a baby born in a high-income country. And progress towards saving newborns has been slower than for other children under five years of age since 1990.
Even within countries, disparities persist. Under-five mortality rates among children in rural areas are, on average, 50 per cent higher than among children in urban areas. In addition, those born to uneducated mothers are more than twice as likely to die before turning five than those born to mothers with a secondary or higher education.
These deaths - particularly the regional and socio-economic disparities - reflect the broader influence of sustainable social and economic development on children's health. Basic health services like vaccination, medical treatment, adequate nutrition and clean water and sanitation become matters of life and death when children and young adolescents don't have access to them.
Reducing inequalities is essential for ending these preventable childhood deaths, and for ensuring that no one is left behind.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said: "Reducing inequality by assisting the most vulnerable newborns, children and mothers is essential for achieving the target of the Sustainable Development Goals on ending preventable childhood deaths and for ensuring that no one is left behind."
1.3 billion people worldwide experience poverty in their daily life
Half of all people living in poverty are younger than 18 years old, according to estimates from the 2018 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) released this week by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
The new figures show that in 104 primarily low and middle-income countries, 662 million children are considered multidimensionally poor. In 35 countries half of all children are poor.
The MPI looks beyond income to understand how people experience poverty in multiple and simultaneous ways. It identifies how people are being left behind across three key dimensions: health, education and living standards, lacking such things as clean water, sanitation, adequate nutrition or primary education. Those who are deprived in at least of a third of the MPI's components are defined as multidimensionally poor. The 2018 figures, which are now closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, cover almost three-quarters of the world's population.
The latest figures paint a stark picture of just how many are still left behind by development, but they also demonstrate that progress can happen quickly with the right approach.
Some 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, which is almost a quarter of the population of the 104 countries for which the 2018 MPI is calculated. Of these 1.3 billion, almost half - 46 percent - are thought to be living in severe poverty and are deprived in at least half of the dimensions covered in the MPI.
But while there is much to be done, there are promising signs that such poverty can be - and is being - tackled. In India, the first country for which progress over time has been estimated, 271 million people moved out of extreme poverty between 2005/06 and 2015/16. The extreme poverty rate there has fallen from 55 percent to 28 percent over the ten-year period.
Although the level of poverty - particularly in children - is staggering so is the progress that can be made in tackling it. In India alone some 271 million have escaped multidimensional poverty in just ten years, said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index gives insights that are vital for understanding the many ways in which people experience poverty, and it provides a new perspective on the scale and nature of global poverty while reminding us that eliminating it in all its forms is far from impossible.
Although similar comparisons over time have not yet been calculated for other countries, the latest information from UNDP's Human Development Index released last week shows significant development progress in all regions, including many Sub-Saharan African countries. Between 2006 and 2017, the life expectancy increased over 7 years in Sub-Saharan Africa and by almost 4 years in South Asia, and enrollment rates in primary education are up significantly. This bodes well for improvements in multidimensional poverty.
Multidimensional poverty is found in all developing regions of the world, but it is particularly acute and significant in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, some 560 million people (58 percent of the population) are living in multidimensional poverty, 342 million (61 percent of those living in multidimensional poverty) of them severely so. While in South Asia 546 million people (31 percent of the population) are multidimensionally poor, 200 million of them (37 percent) severely so.
Figures for the other regions are less severe and range from 19 percent of people in the Arab States living in multidimensional poverty, to two percent of those living in countries covered by the dataset in Europe and Central Asia. Within countries there is also considerable disparities. The 2018 MPI is available for 1,101 subnational regions showing within-country variations in multidimensional poverty levels for 87 countries.
The latest data also reveals the vast majority 1.1 billion of the multidimensional poor live in rural areas around the world, where poverty rates, at 36 percent, are four times higher than among those living in urban areas.
The Multidimensional Poverty Index is a powerful tool for examining global poverty and communicating useful facts. Not only does it allow us to understand how different countries are faring in their fight against poverty, but it helps us to better understand who the poor are, where they are and the many different ways in which they experience poverty., said Sabina Alkire, OPHI Director.
Traditional poverty measures often calculated by numbers of people who earn less than $1.90 a day, shed light on how little people earn but not on whether or how they experience poverty in their day-to-day lives. The MPI provides a complementary picture of poverty and how it impacts people across the world.
The Sustainable Development Goals call to eradicate poverty in all its forms everywhere. The Multidimensional Poverty Index helps answer that call, providing immensely valuable information for all those seeking to understand what poverty looks like for a particular place or group of people, and for those working on the policies to help people escape poverty now and into the future, said Selim Jahan, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP.
While the MPI's core data look at those who are poor, and the subset who are severely poor, the numbers also look at those very close to becoming poor. These people, while not quite multidimensionally poor, are living precariously and struggling to remain above the poverty line.
The data show that in addition to the 1.3 billion classed as poor, an additional 879 million are at risk of falling into multidimensional poverty, which could happen quickly if they suffer setbacks from conflict, sickness, drought, unemployment and more. http://bit.ly/2QMpale
* UN WebTV: Press Briefing on launch of 2018 Multidimensional Poverty Index. Speakers: Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator (UNDP); Mr. Selim Jahan, Director, Human Development Report Office (UNDP); and Ms. Sabina Alkire, Director, Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative: http://bit.ly/2PS1kTT
* 2018 MPI: http://ophi.org.uk/multidimensional-poverty-index/global-mpi-2018/ http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/multidimensional-poverty-index-mpi http://hdr.undp.org/en
2017 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index
The Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has launched the 2017 Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). The report disaggregates the latest figures by age group to analyse the particular situation of 1.8 billion children who live in 103 countries. Findings show that across the 103 low and middle income countries surveyed, children are found to constitute 34% of the total population - but 48% of the poor, based on a measure that assesses a range of deprivations in health, education and living standards.
According to OPHI 689 million children are living in multidimensional poverty and 87% of these poor children are growing up in South Asia and in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Children are also more afflicted by poverty, both in terms of incidence and intensity, than adults across all countries surveyed. The child poverty report finds that half of multidimensionally poor children live in alert level fragile states, and child poverty levels are highest in the fragile states.
These new results are deeply disturbing as they show that children are disproportionately poor when the different dimensions of poverty are measured", said Sabina Alkire, Director of OPHI.
The global MPI was first developed by OPHI with the UN Development Programme in 2010. It has been published in the Human Development Report ever since. This invaluable analytical tool identifies the most vulnerable people - the poorest among the poor, revealing poverty patterns within countries and over time, enabling policy makers to target resources and design policies more effectively. http://bit.ly/2vGVT1v
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