An additional 161 million people are starving

Dhe goal of eradicating malnutrition and hunger in the world remains unattainable for the time being. At the turn of the millennium, the United Nations had set itself the goal of eradicating hunger by 2030. The latest report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on hunger and food security, however, predicts that if the current trends continue, the number of hungry and undernourished people will be around 660 million in 2030. According to the FAO, the Covid 19 pandemic has made the situation even worse. Even in 2030, the number of undernourished people will be 30 million higher than previously forecast. The FAO estimates that because of the 2020 pandemic, the number of undernourished was 161 million higher than in 2019.

Tobias Piller

Economic correspondent for Italy and Greece based in Rome.

The FAO estimates of the number of undernourished in the individual countries show a number of 683.9 million undernourished for the years 2018 to 2020, about 8.9 percent of the world population. For 2020 alone, the number of undernourished people is estimated at 765 million, around 9.9 percent of the world’s population. FAO country statistics on malnutrition show that the 18 countries with the highest numbers of starving people accounted for around 70 percent of the world’s undernourished. At the top was the populous country India, with 208.6 million malnourished on average from 2018 to 2020.Somalia was the country with the highest proportion of hungry people in the population, with 59.5 percent, followed by the Central African Republic (48, 2 percent), Haiti (46.8 percent), Yemen (45.4 percent), Madagascar (43.2 percent) and North Korea (42.4 percent).

According to the FAO report, supply in the People’s Republic of China has improved noticeably. In the years 2004 to 2006, it was still listed as one of the countries with a large number of undernourished people, with 94.3 million undernourished people, around 7.1 percent of the total population. In the meantime, as in the western industrialized countries, the number of undernourished people has shrunk to less than 2.5 percent of the population and is therefore no longer recorded.

The FAO – headed by the Chinese Director General Qu Dongyu since 2019 – reported only a few days ago that the long-term prospects for global agriculture were favorable, where slower population growth and higher productivity lead to falling food prices in the long term. But in the short term there can be problems and bottlenecks, FAO chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen told the FAZ. On the one hand, import demand in important countries has increased, and Brazil, an important export country, is suffering from the consequences of climate change.

“The world’s food supply is influenced by a large concentration on a few exporters in a key position and a few large importers. Every change for one of these countries – such as climate shocks, export restrictions or a large increase in import demand – can immediately produce price effects, ”says Torero Cullen. In general, however, the situation is currently much more relaxed than in 2007 and 2008, when there was a shortage and high prices. “The reserves are bigger and the world is more resistant to crises,” says the FAO chief economist.

According to the FAO, almost 2.37 billion people did not have regular access to adequate nutrition in 2020, 320 million more than in the previous year. Permanent damage from malnutrition was found in 149 million children under the age of five. Without the action of many governments against the consequences of the Covid 19 pandemic, the situation would have been even more difficult, but there are numerous other reasons for malnutrition.

According to the FAO’s judgment, the most important causes of hunger are armed conflicts, climate fluctuations and extreme weather situations, economic crises, insufficient purchasing power for a healthy diet as well as poverty and inequality. The FAO names six key elements for improving food security: First, peaceful conditions in all countries are a prerequisite for any improvement in the food situation. Second, the food supply must become more resilient to climate change – through nature conservation, but also through insurance. It is also important to invest in early warning systems everywhere, says FAO chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen.

Third, economic fluctuations for vulnerable countries should be mitigated, including through social aid programs in the individual countries. Fourthly, it is a matter of making food supplies cheaper. Interventions in the retail chain or the avoidance of crop losses are proposed. Fifthly, it is a matter of generally reducing poverty, for example through the cultivation of higher quality products with which previous subsistence farmers can increase their income and afford better food. “It’s about improving productivity in high quality food. More trade can also increase the productivity and income of farmers, ”says FAO chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen.

Sixth, it is generally a matter of orienting food consumption towards sustainable goals, according to the FAO report. In 2020, the percentage of obese people on the planet was estimated at 5.7 percent of the total population. This autumn, the FAO, together with the UN sister organizations Ifad, World Food Program and Unicef, wants to promote additional engagement against hunger at a world food summit.



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