The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, according to a new UN report that provides fresh evidence that the world is moving in reverse, away from the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms, by 2030, when the SDGs are supposed to be realized.
That represents an increase of about 46 million since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the world’s economy into a downward spiral, and 150 million more since 2019.
The 2022 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report presents updates on the food security and nutrition situation around the world, including the latest estimates of the cost and affordability of a healthy diet.
It also examines ways governments can repurpose their current support to agriculture to help make healthy and nutritious food cheaper, mindful of the limited public resources available in many parts of the world.
The report is a joint publication by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
As many as 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021 – 46 million people more from a year earlier and 150 million more from 2019.
After remaining relatively unchanged since 2015, the proportion of people affected by hunger jumped in 2020 and continued to rise in 2021, to 9.8 percent of the world population. This compares with 8 percent in 2019 and 9.3 percent in 2020.
Around 2.3 billion people in the world (29.3 percent) were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 – 350 million more compared to before the outbreak of the pandemic. Nearly 924 million people faced food insecurity at severe levels, an increase of 207 million in two years.
The gender gap in food insecurity continued to rise in 2021 – 31.9 percent of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27.6 percent of men – a gap of more than 4 percentage points, compared with 3 percentage points in 2020.
Almost 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, up 112 million from 2019, reflecting the effects of inflation in consumer food prices stemming from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to contain it.
An estimated 45 million children under the age of five were suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases children’s risk of death by up to 12 times. Another 149 million children under the age of five had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets, while 39 million were overweight.
Progress is being made on exclusive breastfeeding, with nearly 44 percent of infants under six months, being exclusively breastfed worldwide in 2020.
Overall, two out of three children are not fed the minimum diverse diet they need to grow and develop to their full potential, the report notes, with concern.
Looking forward, the SOFI analysis projects that nearly 670 million people (8 percent of the world population) will still be facing hunger in 2030 – even if a global economic recovery is taken into consideration.
This is a similar number to 2015, when the goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition by the end of this decade was launched under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In other words, the SDGs will have failed to take the world forward battling hunger.
The Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, said that the figures were a “shocking report card of our efforts to end hunger – and we can, and must, do better.”
She noted that it includes billions who have limited or rationed their food intake, or started eating food that is less nutritious, because they just can’t afford alternatives.
“These are people whose lives, livelihoods and prospects for a fruitful and dignified life are being crippled, with their futures eroded and potential and aspirations held back”, she said, speaking at the SOFI launch in New York.
“They need our crosscutting resolve. The evidence presented in this report is compelling as it is outrageous when we see that children in rural settings and poorer households, whose mothers received no formal education, were even more vulnerable to stunting and wasting.”