The UN says 821 million people globally were undernourished in 2017.
According to a report“ The State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World, put together by UNICEF, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, the number of people suffering from hunger has increased during the past three years.
The UN also said nearly 151 million under-fives – 22% of the global total – have their growth stunted by poor nutrition.
The authors say extreme climate events are partly to blame for the rise and call for urgent global action.
The UN agencies also said that conflicts, economic downturns and climate-related events such as droughts and floods are to blame for the negative trend.
According to the UN agencies, global hunger numbers fell steadily from 926 million in 2005 to 795 million in 2010,
In terms of percentages, the share of the global population facing chronic food shortages has fallen from just under 15 per cent in 2000 to a low of 10.6 per cent in 2015, and has increased to 11 per cent in 2016.
The UN agencies blamed violent conflicts, climate-related shocks – such as the El Nino and La Nina weather phenomena – and slowing economic growth, for “sharply” worsening food security in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, south-eastern Asia and western Asia.
South Sudan, where a famine was declared in early 2017, and north-east Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen – which have been classified as at high risk of famine – were singled out as areas of particular concern.
They said it is “not yet clear’’ whether the increase in hunger rates is a blip or the beginning of a new trend, but it anyway “poses a significant challenge for international commitments to end hunger by 2030.”
FAO Director-General, Jose Silva was cautiously optimistic, noting that in 2017 El Nino or La Nina might not repeat themselves, the global economy was doing better and “progress” was evident in conflict zones like South Sudan and Syria.
“We believe that the huge impact of conflicts [on world hunger figures] will be over next year,” he said.
In pure numbers, most of the world’s hungry people – 520 million – live in Asia.
But in relative terms, the hunger crisis is worse in Africa, where 20 per cent of the population – 243 million people – is affected.
This, according to the UN, rises to 33.9 per cent in eastern Africa.
Among children under 5, 155 million are too short for their age, 52 million are too skinny for their age and 41 million are overweight, the report found.
Obesity was said to be on the rise everywhere, affecting 641 million people, or 13 per cent of world’s adults.