As many as 821 million were going hungry in 2017, the UN says. And many more will likely be going hungry.
Even as people in Europe and elsewhere in the developed world continue wasting vast amounts of food, an estimated 821 million people around the planet are suffering from hunger. They include 150 million children with one in 10 youngsters in Asia not having enough to eat, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“New evidence continues to signal that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 or one in every nine people,” FAO observes, adding that there had been a slight increase from 815 million in 2016. “Hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago,” the UN agency adds. “The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterized Asia seems to be slowing down significantly.”
And worse is likely to come as a result of climate change, the UN warns. Increasingly erratic weather patterns, such as extreme heat and prolonged droughts, are having an impact on major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions. “[W]ithout building climate resilience, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme,” FAO says.
“[T]he prevalence and number of undernourished people tend to be higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes,” it adds. “Undernourishment is higher again when exposure to climate extremes is compounded by a high proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability.”
Often, the worse affected are poor people in developing countries who eke out a living from subsistence farming and can’t afford to buy food if their own crops fail. The urban poor are likewise at risk of going hungry as a result of rising food prices.
“Climate change is moving faster than we are,” the UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned. “We need to put the brake on deadly greenhouse gas emissions and drive climate action,” he added. “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us.”