More than 821 million people worldwide last year suffered from hunger, the UN reported on Monday — the third year in a row that the number has risen.
After decades of decline, malnutrition began to increase in 2015, mainly because of climate change and war. Reversing the trend is one of the 2030 targets of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to improve the planet and its people.
However, getting to a world where no one is suffering from hunger by then remains an “immense challenge,” the report said, adding that the number of people without enough to eat had risen from 811 million in 2017.
“We will not achieve zero hunger by 2030,” said David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme, one of the UN agencies contributing to the report.
“That’s a bad trend. Without food security we will never have peace and stability,” said Beasley, deploring that the media carry more talk about Brexit and US President Donald Trump than children dying of hunger.
Extremist groups are using hunger and control over food supplies as a weapon to divide communities and recruit members, he added.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report was produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other UN agencies, including the WHO.
“To safeguard food security and nutrition, it is critical to already have in place economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles when they arrive, while avoiding cuts in essential services, such as healthcare and education, at all costs,” it said.
A “structural transformation” was needed to include the poorest people in the world, the authors said.
This would require “integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts,” while tackling gender inequality and the exclusion of certain social groups, they added.
Malnutrition remains widespread in Africa, where about 20 percent of the population is affected, and in Asia, where more than 12 percent of people experience it.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, fewer than 7 percent of people are affected.
Adding those hit by food insecurity gives a total of more than 2 billion people, 8 percent of whom are in North America and Europe, who do not regularly have access to enough nutritious, safe food, the report said.
The FAO said that efforts are insufficient to meet the goal of halving the number of children whose growth is stunted by malnutrition by 2030.
At the same time, the UN report notes that obesity and excess weight are both on the rise in all regions, with school-age children and adults particularly affected.
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