Thu | Oct 6, 2022

UN: 2.3 billion people severely or moderately hungry in 2021

Published:Wednesday | July 6, 2022 | 10:41 AM
An Ethiopian woman stands by sacks of wheat to be distributed by the Relief Society of Tigray in the town of Agula, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — World hunger rose in 2021, with around 2.3 billion people facing moderate or severe difficulty obtaining enough to eat -- and that was before the Ukraine war, which has sparked increases in the cost of grain, fertiliser and energy, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.

“The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” paints a grim picture, based on 2021 data, saying the statistics “should dispel any lingering doubts that the world is moving backwards in its efforts to end hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.”

“The most recent evidence available suggests that the number of people unable to afford a healthy diet around the world rose by 112 million to almost 3.1 billion, reflecting the impacts of rising consumer food prices during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” the heads of five UN agencies that published the report said in the forward.

They warned that the war in Ukraine, which began on February 24, “is disrupting supply chins and further affecting prices of grain, fertiliser and energy” resulting in more price increases in the first half of 2022.

At the same time, they said, more frequent and extreme climate events are also disrupting supply chains, especially in low-income countries.

Ukraine and Russia together produced almost a third of the world's wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia and its ally Belarus are the world's No. 2 and 3 producers of potash, a key ingredient of fertiliser.

According to the report, hunger continued to rise in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021, but at a slower pace than from 2019 to 2020.

“In 2021, hunger affected 278 million people in Africa, 425 million in Asia and 56.5 million in Latin America and the Caribbean,” it said.

UN development goals call for ending extreme poverty and hunger by 2030, but the report says projections indicate that 8% of the world's population -- nearly 670 million people -- will be facing hunger at the end of the decade. That's the same number of people as in 2015 when the goals were adopted.

The gender gap in food insecurity, which grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, widened even further from 2020 to 2021, the report said.

Driven largely by widening differences in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in Asia, it said that “in 2021, 31.9% of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure compared to 27.6% of men.”

In 2020, the report said, an estimated 22% of children under the age of 5 — or 149 million — had stunted growth and development while 6.7% — or 45 million — suffered from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition. At the other end of the scale, it said 5.7% of youngsters under 5, or 39 million, were overweight.

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