Jul 7, 2022 - World

After long-term decline, global hunger is on the rise

Global prevalence of undernourishment
Data: Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The proportion of the global population experiencing undernourishment rose to 9.8% in 2021, according to an annual UN report on food security.

The big picture: The decline in hunger in recent decades had been a massive breakthrough for global development. That trend has slipped into reverse since 2018, according to the UN data.

  • The UN set a goal in 2015 of eliminating global hunger by 2030, but now estimates that roughly the same percentage (8%) of the world will face hunger then as did in 2015.
  • The report's authors cited "conflict, climate extremes and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities" as the drivers of food insecurity, noting that the war in Ukraine was now further exacerbating the crisis.
  • Undernourishment jumped from 8.0% in 2019 to 9.8% in 2021, largely as a result of the pandemic and the unequal recovery.

Breaking it down: Undernourishment is highest in sub-Saharan Africa (23.2%) and South Asia (16.9%), but has fallen dramatically since 2005 in China and Southeast Asia.

  • Outside of Africa, the highest estimated undernourishment rates were in Haiti (47.2%), North Korea (41.6%) and Yemen (41.4%), according to the report.

The bottom line: “There is a real danger these numbers will climb even higher in the months ahead.... We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe," World Food Program Director David Beasley said in a statement.

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