A recent UN report indicates that the number of people affected by hunger in the world has increased to reach 828 million in 2021, an increase of approximately 46 million compared to 2020 and 150 million since the end of the year. outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 2022 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) , the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Looking to the future, it is expected that nearly 670 million people (8% of the world’s population) will still suffer from hunger in 2030, even in the event of a global economic recovery. This figure is similar to that of 2015, when the goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition by the end of the current decade was set as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda. 2030.
At the time of the report, the war in Ukraine between two of the world’s largest producers of basic grains, oilseeds and fertilizers is disrupting international supply chains and driving up grain prices, fertilizers, energy and ready-to-use therapeutic foods for children suffering from severe malnutrition.
These issues come as supply chains are already feeling the negative effects of increasingly frequent extreme weather events, particularly in low-income countries, and could have serious consequences for food security and nutrition in the global scale.
“This report repeatedly highlights the intensification of the main factors of food insecurity and malnutrition: conflicts, extreme climatic phenomena and economic shocks, the effects of which combine with those of increasing inequalities” , the heads of the five UN agencies wrote in the foreword to the report. “The issue is not whether other trials await us or not. […] ; rather, we need to take matters into our own hands with more courage and build resilience in the face of adversity”.
Reorient agricultural policies
According to the report, it is striking that, globally, the average value of public support provided to food and agriculture over the period 2013-2018 reached nearly $630 billion per year. The largest share targets farmers directly through trade and market policies and subsidies.
However, this support, in addition to distorting markets, does not benefit many farmers, is harmful to the environment and does not encourage the production of the nutritious foods that make up a healthy diet. This is partly because subsidies often target the production of staple foods, dairy products and other foods of animal origin, particularly in high-income and middle-income countries in the top slice. Rice, sugar and different types of meat are the most supported foods globally, while fruits and vegetables are relatively less supported, especially in some low-income countries.
In a context where the specter of recession hangs over the world and affects public revenue and expenditure, one solution to encourage economic recovery is to redirect support for food and agriculture to target nutritious foods for which per capita consumption does not yet correspond to the levels recommended for a healthy diet.
Available evidence indicates that if governments redirect resources to encourage the production, supply and consumption of nutritious foods, they will help to make healthy eating cheaper and more affordable for all, fair way.
Finally, the report notes that states could do more to reduce barriers to trade in nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables and legumes.
A dark picture
– Up to 828 million people were going hungry in 2021 – 46 million more than a year earlier and 150 million more than in 2019.
– After remaining relatively stable since 2015, the proportion of people affected by hunger jumped in 2020 and continued to grow in 2021, reaching 9.8% of the world’s population. In 2019 and 2020, this share was 8% and 9.3% respectively.
– In 2021, some 2.3 billion people (29.3% of the global population) were moderately or severely food insecure – 350 million more people than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Nearly 924 million people (11.7% of the world’s population) faced severe food insecurity, an increase of 207 million people in two years.
– In 2021, the gender gap in food insecurity widened further: 31.9% of women worldwide were moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27, 6% of men – a gap of more than 4 percentage points, compared to 3 percentage points in 2020.
– In 2020, nearly 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet. This figure, which is 112 million higher than in 2019, is explained by the inflation in consumer prices of food products caused by the economic repercussions of the covid-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to contain it.
– An estimated 45 million children under the age of 5 suffered from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which can increase the risk of death among children up to 12 times. In addition, 149 million children under the age of 5 were stunted in growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets, and 39 million were overweight.
– Exclusive breastfeeding is progressing: in 2020, worldwide, nearly 44% of infants under 6 months were exclusively breastfed. This level remains below the 50% to be reached by 2030. A very worrying observation, two out of three children do not benefit from the minimum dietary diversity they need to grow and develop fully.