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‘Global hunger continues to rise’

For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger, with the absolute number of undernourished people being increased to about 821mn in 2017 from around 804mn in 2016, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Africa remains the continent with the highest prevalence of undernourishment (PoU), affecting almost 21 per cent of the population. The situation is also deteriorating in South America, where the PoU has increased from 4.7 per cent in 2014 to a projected five per cent in 2017.

Asia’s decreasing trend in undernourishment seems to be slowing down significantly. The projected PoU for Asia in 2017 is 11.4 per cent, which represents more than 515mn people. Without increased efforts, the world will fall far short of achieving the SDG target of eradicating hunger by 2030.

Child overweight and adult obesity

Since 2012, the global proportion of overweight children remains relatively stagnant, with 5.4 per cent in 2012 and 5.6 per cent in 2017. Of these 38.3mn overweight children, 25 per cent live in Africa and 46 per cent live in Asia.

“The prevalence of obesity among adults in the world has been increasing steadily between 1975 and 2016 – and at an accelerated pace over the past decade. Adult obesity is highest in Northern America and the rate of increase in adult obesity is also the highest there. While Africa and Asia continue to have the lowest rates of obesity, an increasing trend can also be observed,” said FAO.

Climate-related disasters affect food security

Food security and nutrition indicators can clearly be associated with an extreme climate event, such as a severe drought, that critically challenges agriculture and food production.

Several countries – notably in Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia – experienced drought, not only through abnormally low total accumulated rainfall but also through lower rainfall intensities and fewer days of rainfall.

According to FAO, out of 27 countries with increasing change points in the prevalence of undernourishment occurring under severe drought stress conditions, most (19 countries) are in Africa, with the remaining four in Asia, three in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one in Eastern Europe.

A closer review reveals that many countries have witnessed periods of increased undernourishment over the past years; however, during the period of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event of 2015–2016 this change across so many countries contributed to a reversal of the PoU trend at the global level.