Global hunger toll rises by 150 million as Covid and war in Ukraine leave their mark | hunger

The number of people suffering from hunger in the world has risen by 150 million since the start of the Covid pandemic, the UN said, warning that the food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to send the worst-hit countries into famine.

Globally, the number of people suffering from chronic malnutrition has risen to a staggering 828 million last year, an increase of about 46 million from the previous year, and three times as many as measured since the world shut down due to Covid, a report finds. .

However, with the price of fuel, staple foods and fertilizers soaring since the invasion of Ukraine, that total is expected to rise even further in the coming year — a scenario where some of the world’s poorest could face famine, the most extreme form. of food shortage.

“There is a real danger that these numbers will rise further in the coming months,” said David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). “The global price spikes for food, fuel and fertilizer resulting from the crisis in Ukraine threaten to send countries around the world into starvation.

“The result will be global destabilization, famine and mass migration on an unprecedented scale,” he warned. “We must act today to prevent this impending catastrophe.”

Due to the uncertainty caused by the ongoing impact of Covid shutdowns, the report, released Wednesday, cannot give a precise figure on the number of people going hungry in 2021, but it is estimated that the total will be somewhere between 702 million and 828 million lag. † If the latter is the case, that would equate to about 10.5% of the world’s population.

An estimated 45 million children under the age of five suffered from wastage, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which raises children’s risk of death by up to 12 times, the report said. About 149 million children under the age of five had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients.

A baby seen through a mosquito net in a dimly lit hospital ward
A malnourished baby is being treated at a hospital in Biadoa, Somalia. 45 million children worldwide are wasting. Photo: Gary Calton/The Observer

Gilbert Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said chronic malnutrition was projected to affect nearly 670 million people by 2030 — a similar figure to 2015, when the UN pledged to end hunger by 2030 as part of of the sustainable development goals.

†[It] means that all efforts in those 15 years will be negated by the various crises the world is going through,” he told The Guardian.

Houngbo, a former prime minister of Togo, agreed that there was a clear risk of famine in some countries, but added: “I want to believe there is still time to avoid getting there.”

The only “silver edge” of the crisis in Ukraine, he added, was that the world had been forced to pay attention to vulnerabilities in the global food system.

He urged the international community to “seize the moment” and make “a decisive turnaround” in agricultural policy, saying: “Investing in resilience is the real answer. If famine came, food distribution could be inevitable .

“But for God’s sake, food aid is not the answer,” he added. “And if we invest today in the resilience of the local producers, we can avoid that famine.”

The tool used by the UN and the wider international community to measure food insecurity – the Integrated Classification of the Food Security Stage (IPC) defines famine as an extreme deprivation of food. “Starvation, death, poverty and extremely critical levels of acute malnutrition are or are likely to be apparent,” it says.

The last famine officially declared was in 2017 in some parts of South Sudan. Before that, a famine in Somalia between 2010 and 2012 estimated the lives of nearly 260,000 people.

Both countries still face acute food insecurity, and a WFP spokesperson warned last month that only a massive humanitarian effort can prevent parts of Somalia from returning to famine in the coming months.

  • The 2022 Edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report was jointly published by the Food and Agriculture OrganizationIFAD, Unicef, WFP and the World Health Organization

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