Hunger in 2020 shot up in both absolute and proportional terms, outpacing population growth. Approximately 9.9 percent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 percent in 2019.
UN’s 2021 edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World has reported that about a tenth of the global population – up to 811 million people – were undernourished in 2020, and Africa posted the biggest jump.
The report, which is the first global assessment of its kind in the pandemic era showed a dramatic worsening of world hunger, much of which was attributed to the fallout of the coronavirus.
Worryingly, hunger in 2020 shot up in both absolute and proportional terms, outpacing population growth. Approximately 9.9 percent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 percent in 2019.
Over 50 percent of the undernourished people, 418 million, live in Asia; more than a third, 282 million, in Africa; and a smaller proportion, 60 million, in Latin America and the Caribbean.
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The sharpest rise in hunger was in Africa, where the estimated prevalence of undernourishment, which stood at 21 percent of the population, is more than double that of any other region.
Moreover, the report also indicated that over 2.3 billion people, 30 percent of the global population, lacked year-round access to adequate food.
Gender inequality also worsened and for every 10 food-insecure men, there were 11 food-insecure women in 2020, up from 10.6 in 2019.
Malnutrition persisted in all its forms, with children paying a high price. During the period under review, more than 149 million under-fives were estimated to have been stunted, or too short for their age.
A further 45 million-plus were found to be wasted, or too thin for their height, and nearly 39 million – overweight.
A full three billion adults and children remained locked out of healthy diets, largely due to excessive costs. Nearly a third of women of reproductive age suffer from anemia.
Globally, despite progress in some areas, the world is not on track to achieve targets for any nutrition indicators by 2030.
Previous editions had already put the world on notice that the food security of millions – many children among them – was at stake.
“Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten the lives and livelihoods of people around the world,” stated the report.
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The UN report went on and warned of a “critical juncture,” even as they pin fresh hopes on increased diplomatic momentum.
“This year offers a unique opportunity for advancing food security and nutrition through transforming food systems with the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit, the Nutrition for Growth Summit, and the COP26 on climate change,” it said.
The outcome of these events will go on to shape the second half of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition – a global policy commitment yet to hit its stride.