FAO: 418 million undernourished people in Asia

Compared to 2019, an additional 57 million people suffer from hunger in Asia. In the coming years, the UN agency expects things to improve in Asia but get worse in Africa. The post-pandemic economic crisis has made the food situation especially worse.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its annual report yesterday on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.

The study notes that “we are not on track to ending world hunger and malnutrition – in fact, we are moving in the wrong direction”, this is especially true for Asia where two thirds of all undernourished people in the world live.

There were 57 million more malnourished people in Asia in 2020 over 2019. By comparison, Africa, the second continent most affected by hunger, had 218 million malnourished people in 2020, 46 million more than in 2019, a situation that is not going to improve in the near future.

According to UN estimates, the number of malnourished people in two continents should be the same by 2030 – 300 million in each. This represents an improvement for Asia, but not worldwide.

In 2005, just over 553 million were undernourished in Asia. With the situation improving until 2017, the number dropped to 352 million. Since then, circumstances deteriorated gradually, especially with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The FAO report notes that “the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities forming in our food systems over recent years as a result of major drivers such as conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns and downturns.”

In recent years, these factors have compounded each other, undermining the progress achieved in previous decades.

But things are not the same everywhere. The situation varies according to levels of national wealth or GDP. In low-income countries, conflicts and climate change have negatively impacted the food situation, while in middle-income countries malnutrition has increased with economic downturns.

Then there is climate change with Asia as the most affected region. According to the FAO report, the percentage of Asian countries experiencing multiple types of climate extremes rose to 57 per cent in the 2015-2020 period, up from 11 per cent in 2000–2004.

Last but not least, the economic crisis following the pandemic has worsened the food situation.

The level of malnutrition is not the same across Asia. The undernourishment rate varies from less than 2.5 per cent in East Asia to as high as 15.8 per cent in the southern region, which also has the highest number of undernourished people – almost 306 million.