FAO’s report on hunger in the world sees Asia taking steps backwards
The UN agency’s latest report notes that the recovery hoped for did not materialise in 2021. Asia is home to half of the world's undernourished population, and recorded the highest increase in the cost of a proper nutrition.
Milan (AsiaNews) – The post-pandemic economic recovery observed in most countries did not translate into greater food security; on the contrary, COVID-19’s impact on malnutrition continued to be felt throughout 2021, especially in Asia, which hitherto had been making great strides to reduce hunger, this according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
In a report released yesterday, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the world, the United Nations agency notes that 670 million people will still be undernourished by 2030; that is 8 per cent of the world’s population, the same percentage as in 2015 when the UN 2030 launched its Agenda for Sustainable Development with the aim of “zero hunger”.
Had there been no pandemic, there would be 78 million fewer undernourished people in 2030. But last year, people who suffered from hunger numbered between 702 and 828 million, more than half (425 million) in Asia alone, especially South Asia (more than 330 million).
While Asia appears to be the continent most affected by hunger in absolute terms, hunger is most widespread in Africa, where more than 20 per cent of the population is undernourished.
Compared to 2019, the largest increase in percentage and absolute terms took place precisely on the African continent where hunger affected 278 million people in 2021.
On a global scale, severe food insecurity rose from 9.3 per cent to 11.7 per cent in two years, an increase of 207 million people. In Asia, severe food insecurity grew by 10.5 per cent, or 37.5 million more people in 2021. In absolute terms this is much higher than in Africa.
At the same time, Asia is also the only continent where moderate food insecurity remained stable between 2020 and 2021, and is emblematic of another problem that is set to worsen in 2022: rising food costs.
The quality of the human diet influences the level of nutrition and food security of a population; malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies as well as overweight and obesity are directly related to the quantity and quality of food consumed.
Post-pandemic inflation has driven up the prices of basic necessities worldwide, but in 2019 and 2020 Asia had already recorded the largest rise (4 per cent) in the costs of a balanced diet. In absolute terms this means that almost 3.1 billion people in the world could not afford proper nutrition in 2020, up by 112 million people over 2019.
In Asia, the rise in people who could not afford a balanced diet was 78 million, followed by Africa (25 million), and to a lesser extent, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Europe (eight and one million more respectively).
Among subregions, East Asia saw the greatest hike in prices, up by 6 per cent, which translates in 18.7 per cent more people without access to proper nutrition. In 2020, a healthy diet cost US$ 4.72 per day per person, compared US$ 3.19 in the Western world (Europe and North America).
However, East Asia is also the region least affected by food insecurity to the point that it is the only area in the world to match pre-pandemic levels.
Due to the war in Ukraine, it is not possible to make precise predictions about the future, but it is likely that the situation will continue to get worse.
According to the FAO report, “the direct and indirect effects of the conflict in 2022 will have multiple implications for global agricultural markets through the channels of trade, production and prices. Ultimately, this casts a shadow over the state of food security and nutrition for many countries, in particular those that are already facing hunger and food crisis situations”.
In other words, the inequalities that exist between and within countries, also due to the current conflict, are unlikely to go away any time soon.