Number of Severely Hungry People On The Rise Again, New UN Report Warns

According to a new UN report that has launched in Rome on Friday, the number of chronically hungry people in the world is increasing again. 815 million people were undernourished in 2016, which is 38 million more than 2015. The report also shows that lingering conflicts, climate change, and economic problems are among the factors behind the hunger. 60% of the world’s population who suffered from hunger lived in areas where man-made conflict was intense. Indeed, 20 million people in parts of South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen are in constant danger of hunger. The report adds that overall, 11% of the world’s population was hungry last year.

The gloomy figure has set off alarm bells that we cannot afford to ignore. Director General of the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, reports that the number of malnourished people is on the same level as 2012. A more distressing fact is that all of this happened just “two years after all countries committed to eradicating hunger and extreme poverty by 2030.” Indeed, the heads of major UN agencies commented in the report that without joint and effective action, the ambitious goal to end hunger and prevent malnutrition by 2030 would not be achieved.

In fact, the number of people hungry around the world went up for the first time in more than a decade. Whether it represents a new trend or is just a one-off coincidence, we all need to pay full attention to the problem. To find a solution, we first have to realize that violence and conflict are the main reason for food security. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, as the arguably most unstable and volatile continent, Africa suffers the most and 20% Africans do not have sufficient food. In total, the number of hungry people in Africa is 520 million. In comparison, there are only 243 million or 11.7% of people in hunger in the second worst continent, Asia. As a result, it is crucial for international actors to step in those troubled African countries such as Somalia and Nigeria and end the local conflict. Only in a peaceful condition could international charitable organizations then make a difference and distribute foods or other necessary supplies. In other words, the importance of international concerted efforts lies not only in stopping the bleed.

However, it is also worth repeating that climate change and economic problem are also the driving forces behind the increase of those who are hungry. Hunger is worsened particularly when conflict areas are hit by droughts and floods caused by the El Nino phenomenon. As those natural disasters affect the already troubled countries, problems are exacerbated because those countries tend to witness a downward spiral of prolonged conflict and protracted fragility. Consequently, it is of great importance that each country follows what it aimed to fulfil at the Paris agreement and meets its specific target. What a country definitely should not do is to arbitrarily withdraw from the agreement; otherwise, a terrible example would be set and no countries would have confidence in cooperation against climate change anymore. If that happens, then the hungry people’s chance to be better off would be even smaller. On the other hand, a slowdown in world economic growth in recent years also adds to the problem. As the UN report goes, the countries that depend on oil or other primary commodity exports are vulnerable in the face of economic slowdowns. The collapse in the prices of various commodities negatively affected people’s ability to access food. Nonetheless, to maintain an economic growth, a peaceful environment is still a prerequisite.

Up till now, the 2030 Agenda seems to fail the people in need. To reverse this trend and avoid an even worse situation, the governments have to realize that there is little time left.