UN: Global hunger rising with conflicts

UN agencies warn that climate change and conflicts are undermining food security and causing undernourishment, with world hunger rising for the first time in 100 years

15 September 2017, 1:57pm
Number of hungry people globally increased, according to UN reports (Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation)
Number of hungry people globally increased, according to UN reports (Photo: Thomson Reuters Foundation)
In 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people reached up to 815 million, an increase of 38 million from the previous year. According to the state of food insecurity and nutrition of 2017, a report brought forward by five UN agencies, the increase is largely due to the proliferation of violence and crime-related shocks.

The report also noted a rise in the number of people, globally, who are chronically hungry, from 10.6% in 2015 to 11% in 2016.

Senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Cindy Holleman, said it was hard to know whether or not the increase had marked the reversal of a long-term trend.

However, she said the rise in conflict and climate change – factors which rank alongside economic slowdown, which makes food hard to come by for poor people, as key drivers of food insecurity – was certainly a cause for concern.

“Whether it has been a blip and it’s going to go back down again, we’re not sure,” said Holleman. “But we’re sending warning signals. We are sending a message that something is going on.

“If you look at the 815 million [chronically undernourished] people, 489 million or 60% of them are located in countries affected by conflict. Over the last decade we’re seen a significant increase in conflict. We also see that conflict combined with climatic effects is having a significant effect.”

A foreword to the report, written jointly by the heads of the five UN agencies, said: “Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature.

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.”

Oxfam’s head of food and climate change, Robin Willoughby, said:
“This must act as a wake-up call for international leaders and institutions to do more to resolve the catastrophic cocktail of climate change and conflict around the world. Global failure to tackle these issues affects us all, but it’s the world’s poorest who will suffer most.”