World hunger increases for the third year in a row
In 2017, 821 million people did not consume the minimum amount of calories for their daily activity.
The number of people in a situation of famine increased with respect to 2016 by at least 15 million.
The data collected by the UN Food and Nutrition in the World report confirm that the increase is not an isolated situation, because it is the third year in which the number of people suffering from famine increases.
The wars and the economic crises are the main responsible factors for this regression, according to the FAO.
In environmental terms, the El Niño phenomenon of 2015 and 2016 were especially culpable.
Without water, neither crops nor grass grows for animals. That means that, in countries highly dependent on agriculture, millions of people are left without food and the source of their income with which they buy food in the market.
The lack of rainfall, in fact, causes more than 80% of the damage in agriculture and livestock production.
FAO now advocates for improving people’s resilience, that is, strengthening their ability to adapt, resist and recover from adversity.
Humanity has the knowledge and the tools for it, but not everyone involved in solving world hunger puts those tools in motion.
Most countries that face a food crisis do not suffer from armed conflicts, but there are places where conflict makes famine a bigger problem.
Africa was the continent where hunger hit a more serious situation. Almost 21% of Africans are undernourished. Last year that percentage represented 256 million people, of which 236 million were from the sub-Saharan region. That is 30.4% more than the 181 million that were accounted for in this area in 2010.
In absolute terms, Asia is in the lead with 515 million people suffering from hunger. That is 11.4% of its inhabitants.
When it comes to world hunger, it was not exclusively El Niño phenomenon what made it more difficult to deal with it. There are a lot of places where there is no conflict and no economic crisis, where people are victims of hunger.
Simpler situations suchas marginalization, inequality and poverty mean that people cannot access sufficient and nutritious food.
Although the former concentrate practically in the poor nations, the latter do not live exclusively in the rich ones; In fact, it is a growing public health problem in developing countries.
How can these two seemingly contradictory trends in food security and nutrition occur?
The authors of the study use several factors to explain this paradox.
One of them is, according to the researchers, rapid demographic, social and economic changes in many low and middle income countries. Such changes led to greater urbanization and an alteration of lifestyles and habits, which have turned towards a greater consumption of processed and hypercaloric products, with a high content of hydrogenated fats, sugars and refined salt.
The most nutritious and fresh foods are the most expensive and those who have less resources tend to buy more caloric and lower nutritionally adequate food.
Being overweight also has to do with poverty. Obesity grows in countries where for the poorest families it is easier to get junk food than healthy food.
A family of three or four members find it easier to buy 4 two-liter bottles of coca cola than the same amount of water, for example. Most people buy white rice, because they cannot afford buying whole grain rice. The same happens with bread.
On a positive note, there are fewer children suffering from chronic malnutrition, also known as stunting, which is the result of a deficit of essential nutrients such as protein, iron, folic acid, vitamin A or Iodine during early childhood.
About 22% of children under five suffered from this type of malnutrition, a total of 150.8 million, according to the deputy director. of FAO. This number is smaller than what they observed in 2012, when the percentage of affected children was 25%, or 165.2 million.
In the chapter of overweight children and childhood obesity there is no good news. Since 2012, the global proportion of children under five years of age who are overweight seems to have stalled. In 2016, the rate was 5.4%, and in 2017 it had barely risen to 5.6%, which corresponds to 38.3 million children.
In summary: there are more hungry and more obese people.
According to the study, there are no prospects that the quantity and intensity of conflicts will decline, which makes it more difficult to reach rural places where lands are under dispute in Africa and Asia.