Decline in global hunger threatened by climate change and conflict

In Liberia, a health worker takes child's temperature at the FJ Grant District Hospital in Greenvile in the Sinoe County.

There are 209 million fewer people who face hunger today that did in 1990. Hunger has become an issue of the past for some 100 million people in the last decade alone. This progress is exciting, but recent developments may slow down the rapid decline of hunger, warns the United Nations.

In a report released Tuesday, the UN’s Food and Agriculture program detailed the global gains made against hunger. For the most part the report is filled with good news. Fewer people are going hunger and the rate of decline is so fast that getting to a world without hunger seems possible.

That will happen if investments and attention are sustained on the issue. The State of Food Insecurity in the World report argues that “accelerated, substantial and sustainable hunger reduction is possible with the requisite political commitment.” In other words, the world has done a great job, but now is not the time to take and break and pat each other on the back.

Still, roughly one out of nine people in the world suffer from hunger. That totals about 805 million people. That is still a lot of people who are unable to meet their most basic need of having regular meals. The report is a call to action, say activists.

“This is proof that we can win the war against hunger and should inspire countries to move forward, with the assistance of the international community as needed,” wrote the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin, in the foreword to the report.

The overall numbers are impressive, but the gains are lopsided. Haiti, for example, saw the number of people who are hunger increase from 4.4 million in 1990 to 5.3 million in 2014. That can be attributed to the 2010 earthquake, but the country’s inability to rebound from the tragedy is evidence of its many problems.

It illustrates how problems that cannot be controlled make matters worse. The rate of hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa stands at roughly twenty-five percent. That is, in part, due to droughts in places like the Sahel region of West Africa and Somalia. Re-currant dry spells are extremely damaging in places where people are unable to cope. Resilience has become the key catch-phrase to sum up the various issues that need to be resolved in order to ensure that such problems do not harm many people.

“Food insecurity and malnutrition are complex problems that cannot be solved by one sector or stakeholder alone, but need to be tackled in a coordinated way,” said the UN leaders, in the report.

Despite the challenges, there is some good news. Countries are making progress against hunger by deploying innovative solutions. One example is Bolivia, where created institutions support the vulnerable indigenous population in the country.

Solutions are possible, but greater resolve is needed, say the UN leaders.

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About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.