122 million more people pushed into hunger

The Asia-Pacific region has achieved rapid poverty reduction, with over 1.5 billion people lifted out of extreme poverty over the past few generations. While this is a remarkable achievement, challenges persist, including entrenched inequalities and disruptive forces, said The 2024 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report Making our Future: New Directions for Human Development in Asia and the Pacific.

Over 122 million more people are facing hunger in the world since 2019 due to the pandemic and repeated weather shocks and conflicts, including the war in Ukraine, according to the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report .

The latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, jointly published by five United Nations specialized agencies, highlights a concerning increase in global hunger and malnutrition. The COVID-19 pandemic, repeated weather shocks, conflicts such as the war in Ukraine, and other factors have led to a significant rise in hunger, jeopardizing the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030. The report, issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Food Programme (WFP), reveals that between 691 and 783 million people faced hunger in 2022, representing an increase of 122 million people compared to 2019.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the need for an immediate and intense global effort to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and build resilience against the crises and shocks driving food insecurity, including conflict and climate change.

FOOD INSECURITY

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report presents sobering statistics on global food security and nutrition. In 2022, an estimated 2.4 billion people, roughly 29.6% of the global population, faced moderate or severe food insecurity. Among them, approximately 900 million individuals experienced severe food insecurity. Additionally, more than 3.1 billion people, equivalent to 42% of the world’s population, were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2021, representing a rise of 134 million people compared to 2019.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell emphasized that malnutrition poses a major threat to children’s survival, growth, and development. The report highlights that malnutrition affects children differently in urban and rural settings, with higher prevalence rates of stunting and wasting in rural areas, while overweight cases are slightly more prevalent in urban areas, she said.

Russell called for a stronger response focused on children, prioritizing access to nutritious and affordable diets, essential nutrition services, and protection from nutrient-poor, ultra-processed foods. Strengthening food and nutrition supply chains, including fortified and therapeutic foods for children, is also crucial in addressing the nutrition crisis.    

MALNUTRITION AMONG CHILDREN

The report also highlights the ongoing issue of malnutrition among children. In 2022, 148 million children under the age of five, accounting for 22.3% of this age group, were stunted. Additionally, 45 million children (6.8%) suffered from wasting, while 37 million children (5.6%) were overweight.

Although progress has been made in exclusive breastfeeding, with close to 48% of infants under six months benefiting from this practice, concerted efforts are needed to achieve the malnutrition targets set for 2030.

URBANISATION

Furthermore, the report emphasizes the impact of urbanization as a “megatrend” influencing eating habits and agrifood systems. With projections indicating that nearly 70% of the global population will reside in cities by 2050, it is crucial for governments and stakeholders addressing hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition to understand and incorporate urbanization trends into their policies.

The traditional rural-urban divide no longer adequately captures the complex dynamics of urbanization on agrifood systems. The report advocates for adopting a comprehensive rural-urban continuum perspective, considering the varying degrees of connectivity and connections between urban and rural areas.

The report’s findings reveal that food purchases have significant implications not only for urban households but also across the entire rural-urban continuum, even in areas distant from urban centres. Moreover, it highlights the increasing consumption of highly processed foods in peri-urban and rural regions of certain countries.

However, spatial inequalities persist, with higher levels of food insecurity affecting individuals living in rural areas. Moderate or severe food insecurity affected 33% of adults in rural areas and 26% in urban areas. Children’s malnutrition also exhibits variations between urban and rural areas, with higher rates of stunting and wasting observed in rural settings, while overweight cases are slightly more prevalent in urban areas.

The report stresses the need for policy interventions, actions, and investments that comprehensively consider the intricate and evolving relationship between the rural-urban continuum and agrifood systems to effectively promote food security and nutrition.

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