UN says 2.4 billion people did not have consistent access to food last year

UNITED NATIONS (AP) – The UN announced grim news on global food security on Wednesday: 2.4 billion people lacked consistent access to food last year, as many as 783 million suffered from hunger and 148 million children suffered from stunting.

Five United Nations agencies said in the 2023 State of Food Security and Nutrition report that while global hunger figures have stagnated between 2021 and 2022, many places are facing food crises that are getting worse. They highlighted Western Asia, the Caribbean and Africa where 20% of the continent’s population suffers from hunger, more than double the global average.

“Recovery from the global pandemic has been uneven and the war in Ukraine has affected nutritious food and healthy diets,” said Qu Dongyu, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in a statement. “This is the ‘new normal’ where climate change, conflict and economic instability push those on the margins of safety even further.”

According to the report, people’s access to healthy food has deteriorated worldwide.

More than 3.1 billion people – 42% of the world’s population – could not afford a healthy diet in 2021, an increase of 134 million people from 2019, he said. declared.

FAO chief economist Maximo Torero told a press conference launching the report that reducing the number of people with unhealthy diets “is a big challenge because it basically tells us that we have to change how we use our resources in agriculture, in the agri-food system.

According to the latest research, he said, between 691 million and 783 million people were chronically undernourished in 2022, an average of 735 million, or 122 million more people than in 2019 before the start. of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Torero said UN projections for 2030 indicate that 600 million people will still be chronically undernourished in 2030, far from the UN’s development goal of reaching “Zero Hunger” by that date.

In the foreword to the report, the heads of the FAO, the World Food Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF and the World Health Organization wrote that the achievement of Zero Hunger “poses a major challenge”. They called for redoubled efforts “to transform and harness agrifood systems” to achieve the goal.

As for children, the report says they continue to be malnourished, with not only 148 million under-fives stunted, but 45 million too thin for their height or “emaciated”, while 37 million young people were overweight.

Torero said the five agencies also looked at increasing urbanization and found that people in rural and semi-urban areas are also consuming mass market products.

“Normally we thought that rural people would consume what they produced, but that is not the case,” he said, explaining that in rural areas, around 30% of the family’s food basket is purchased. at the market, and in semi-urban areas. and urban areas it is higher, which has implications for nutrition due to the consumption of more processed foods.

WFP Chief Economist Arif Husain told reporters in a virtual briefing that in 2022, when the war in Ukraine continued, the food situation did not worsen as the donor community provided approximately $14.2 billion and the agency had been able to provide aid to 160 people. million people, compared to 97 million in 2019.

“What worries me is that going forward we are looking at huge funding cuts,” he said, citing WFP donations of just $4.2 billion last week. , or 29% less than the same period last year.

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