The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World

October 07, 2018
A translation for this article is available in French

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released its annual report called The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Several international NGOs prepare the report, which analyzes the key challenges of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. For the second year in a row, the report recorded a rise in world hunger; the number of people who suffer from hunger has grown over the past three years to an estimated 821 million in 2017.

The report is divided into two parts: the current status, and the impact of climate on food security and nutrition. It states that increasingly poor access to adequate food has contributed to high rates of obesity, undernutrition, and malnutrition. In addition, along with conflicts, climate variability and climate extremes have contributed deeply to severe food crises and the persistence of global hunger.

Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have experienced the greatest increase in the number of undernourished people, with more than 256 million estimated in Africa in 2017. The increase is linked to a combination of factors: the availability and price of food due to adverse climate conditions, rapid population growth, and prolonged armed conflicts.

Gender disparity in food insecurity is noted as an important contributing factor to forms of malnutrition such as obesity, child wasting (low weight for height), and growth stunting across the continent. Though not always linked to food insecurity, obesity is becoming more prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in northern and southern Africa. This is highly linked to dietary choices, which are influenced by the increasing cost of food. When faced with high food prices, most food-insecure families choose cheaper foods that are often poorer in nutrients and high in calories.

Climate variability has long been a challenge to food security. Agricultural activities are vulnerable to climate changes; where farming is most vulnerable, hunger is greatest. Flood-related disasters in Africa have significantly decreased since 2006, though there has been an increase in the amount of cropping areas affected by drought. Undernourishment rises when crop yields fail because of drought.

To address these issues, FAO is calling for international, large-scale partnerships. The report says such partnerships should tackle various endeavours, including research on the resilience of food systems, and funding for risk reduction and climate change adaptation programs. It also calls for access to food to be framed as a human right, and notes that any actions require good governance.

To read the full report, go to: http://www.fao.org/publications/sofi