the grim UN scenario

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the grim UN scenario


According to the latest estimates, hunger affected around 690 million people in 2019, or 8.9% of the world’s population, according to an annual report by the UN.



© afp.com/Georges Gobet
Almost one in nine humans suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2019, a proportion that is expected to worsen due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Illustrative photo)


Almost one in nine humans. That’s the proportion of humans suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2019, according to an annual UN report released on Monday. According to the latest estimates, hunger affected about 690 million people last year, or 8.9% of the world’s population, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This report has been produced with the assistance of the International Fund for the Development of Agriculture, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.

The figure of 690 million means that there are 10 million more chronically undernourished than in 2018 and 60 million more than in 2014. “If the trend continues, it is estimated that by then by 2030 that number will exceed 840 million people. This clearly means that the goal (to eradicate hunger by 2030, established by the UN in 2015) is not on track to be achieved ” , says Thibault Meilland, policy analyst at FAO.

A proportion expected to worsen due to Covid-19

And that was without taking into account the health and economic shock caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused cascading loss of income, increased food prices, disrupted supply chains, etc. Global recession from coronavirus threatens to push hunger between 83 and 132 million additional people.

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“These are still relatively conservative assumptions, the situation is evolving,” notes Thibault Meilland. The estimate of undernourishment in the world is much lower than that of previous editions: last year’s report mentioned more than 820 million people suffering from hunger. But the figures cannot be compared: the integration of newly accessible data – in particular from surveys carried out by China among households in the country – has led to the revision of all estimates since 2000.

“This is not a drop (in the number of people suffering from undernourishment), it is a revision. Everything has been recalculated on the basis of these new figures”, insists Thibault Meilland. “As China represents a fifth of the world’s population, this update has important consequences for the global figures,” points out the FAO analyst. “Even if the overall figure is lower,” the observation of an increase in undernourishment since 2014 “is confirmed,” he adds.

Two billion people in “food insecurity”

Among the areas for improvement, the prevalence of stunting among five-year-olds fell by a third between 2000 and 2019, with around 21% of children affected worldwide today. Over 90% of them live in Asia or Africa.

Beyond undernutrition, the report points out that an increasing number of people “have had to reduce the quantity and quality of the food they eat”. Two billion people suffer from “food insecurity“, that is to say that they do not have regular access to nutritious food in sufficient quality and quantity, it is indicated.

Even more (3 billion) do not have the means to afford a diet considered to be balanced, with in particular sufficient intakes of fruits and vegetables. “On average, a healthy diet costs five times more than a diet that only meets energy needs with basic starchy foods,” reports Thibault Meilland.

Corollary: obesity is increasing in both adults and children. Specialized UN agencies estimate that if patterns of food consumption do not change, their impact on direct healthcare costs and lost economic productivity should reach 1300 billion dollars (1144 billion euros at current prices) per year by 2030.

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