World hunger and malnutrition levels increased last year, according to the recently published 2021 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report.
The report, entitled “Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all’, offers the first global assessment of food insecurity since the Covid-19 pandemic and warns that hunger was spreading around the world before the pandemic. Other causes of food insecurity include conflict, climate variability, economic downturns and the unaffordability of diets.
In particular, the report shows that in 2020:
- Between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger – or as many as 161 million
- The number of people in the world affected by hunger increased, mainly due to impacts related to the Covid-19 pandemic
- The prevalence of undernourishment climbed to around 9.9 per cent, from 8.4 per cent in 2019
- Compared with 2019, 46 million more people in Africa, almost 57 million more in Asia, and about 14 million more in Latin America and the Caribbean were affected by hunger.
“Globally, the world is not on track to achieve targets for any of the nutrition indicators by 2030,” states the report. Authored by the five authoring UN agencies FAO, WFP, UNICEF, IFAD and WHO, the report warns that there is an urgent need to review existing food and nutrition practices to build more resilient rural livelihoods and ensure that vulnerable children, smallholder farmers and others dependent on well-functioning food systems are better protected.
“The pandemic is only partly to blame. Hunger on this scale is not a symptom of Covid-19, it is a symptom of a dysfunctional food system that buckles under pressure and abandons the most vulnerable first,” says Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit
The report shows that measures taken to contain the Covid-19 pandemic have had an unprecedented impact on food value chains and considers different county experiences. For example, in Bangladesh where Covid-19 lockdowns put tremendous pressure on farmers, the flow of agricultural products and inputs was heavily disrupted. Farmers faced challenges in procuring inputs such as fertilisers and feed, and in selling their harvested products.
New and promising technologies can effectively reinforce food systems’ resilience to the
drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition, and at the same time provide healthy diets with sustainability considerations. The report offers the example of a regional initiative in the Near East and North Africa, which has given special focus to the use of solar energy for agricultural irrigation and sustainable development.
The report recommends other actions to prevent undernourishment and support livelihoods including: supporting the livelihoods of those most vulnerable; strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable to economic adversity and shocks; and tackling income inequality.
Read the report here.