More than 122 million more people face hunger since 2019 due to the pandemic and repeated climate-related shocks and conflicts, including the war in Ukraine, according to the latest edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition report. in the World (SOFI), published today jointly by five United Nations specialized agencies.
If trends continue as they are, the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending hunger by 2030 will not be achieved, warn the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Development Agriculture (IFAD), the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
A wake-up call to fight hunger
The 2023 edition of the report reveals that between 691 and 783 million people suffered from hunger in 2022, so the midpoint of the range is 735 million. This figure represents an increase of 122 million people compared to 2019, before the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
While global hunger numbers have been relatively stable between 2021 and 2022, there are many parts of the world facing increasingly severe food crises. Progress in reducing hunger was seen in Asia and Latin America by 2022, but hunger continued to rise in Western Asia, the Caribbean and all subregions of Africa. Africa remains the worst affected region, with one in five people facing hunger, more than twice the global average.
“There are glimmers of hope, some regions are on track to meet certain nutrition targets by 2030. Overall though, we need an immediate intense global effort to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals. We must build resilience in the face of crises and shocks that cause food insecurity, from conflict to climate,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a video message during the launch of the report at Headquarters of the United Nations in New York.
The heads of the five United Nations agencies — Qu Dongyu, Director-General of FAO; Álvaro Lario, President of IFAD; Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO; Cindy McCain, Executive Director of the WFP; and Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF—write in the foreword to the report: “Without doubt, meeting the SDG target of achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 is a daunting challenge. In fact, almost 600 million people are projected to still suffer from hunger in 2030.” The main drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition are the “new normal”, they add, and “we have no choice but to redouble our efforts to transform agri-food systems and harness them to achieve the targets” of SDG 2.
The food security and nutrition situation remained grim in 2022. The report finds that around 29.6 percent of the world’s population, or 2.4 billion people, did not have consistent access to food, judge by the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity. Among them, some 900 million people faced severe food insecurity.
Meanwhile, people’s ability to access healthy diets has deteriorated around the world: more than 3.1 billion people globally, or 42% of the world’s population, could not afford a healthy diet in 2021 This represents a global increase of 134 million people compared to 2019.
Millions of children under five years of age continue to suffer from malnutrition: in 2022, 148 million children under five years of age (22.3%) were stunted, 45 million (6.8%) were wasted and 37 million (5 .6%), overweight.
Progress has been recorded in exclusive breastfeeding: 48% of infants under six months of age benefited from this practice, close to the target for 2025. However, more concerted action will be needed to reach the targets for 2030 on malnutrition.
New data: urbanization is driving changes in agri-food systems
The report analyzes the increase in urbanization as a “megatrend” affecting what and how people eat food. With nearly seven out of 10 people projected to live in cities by 2050, governments and others working to combat hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition must try to understand these urbanization trends and take them into account when formulating their decisions. policies.
In particular, the concept of division between the urban and rural areas is no longer sufficient to understand how urbanization is shaping agri-food systems. A more complex perspective of the entire rural-urban continuum is needed that takes into account both the degree of connectivity that people have and the types of connections that exist between urban and rural areas.
For the first time, this evolution is systematically documented in 11 countries. The report shows that food purchases are significant not only among rural households, but also across the rural-urban continuum, including those residing far from urban centers. Furthermore, the new data indicates that the consumption of highly processed foods is also increasing in peri-urban and rural areas of some countries.
Unfortunately, there are still spatial inequalities. Food insecurity affects people living in rural areas the most. Moderate or severe food insecurity affected 33% of adults living in rural areas and 26% of those living in urban areas.
Child malnutrition also shows urban and rural particularities: the prevalence of stunting in children is higher in rural areas (35.8%) than in urban areas (22.4%). Wasting is higher in rural areas (10.5%) than in urban areas (7.7%), while overweight is slightly higher in urban areas (5.4%) compared to rural areas (3 ,5 %).
The report recommends that, to effectively promote food security and nutrition, policy interventions, actions and investments should be guided by a greater understanding of the complex and changing relationship that exists across the entire rural-urban continuum. and agri-food systems.