05.07.2017 |

World hunger on the rise again due to conflict and climate change, FAO

A grim outlook for the world food situation (Photo: CC0)

The number of undernourished people in the world has increased again, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations warned on Monday. At the opening of the agency’s biennial conference in Rome, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told member states that conflict and climate change are the main contributing factors behind the rising number of people suffering from hunger. „I wish I could announce here today some good news regarding the global fight against hunger,” da Silva said. “But, unfortunately, it is not the case. Preliminary data available indicate for this year that the number of undernourished people in the world has increased, rising again.” The final numbers will be published in September with the launch of FAO’s annual flagship report, the State of Food Security and Nutrition, but da Silva warned that the world could face the worst food crisis since the Second World War.

FAO currently identifies 19 countries in a protracted crisis situation. “Earlier this year famine was declared in parts of South Sudan. And by the time famine is declared, it means that thousands of people have already died from hunger. Alerts of high risk of famine were also issued for Northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Nearly 20 million people are heavily affected in these four countries,” da Silva stressed. These countries are also facing extreme weather events such as droughts and floods. Da Silva said that almost 60% of the people suffering from hunger worldwide live in countries affected by conflict and climate change. The livelihoods of these mostly rural people have been disrupted and “many of them have found no option other than increasing the statistics of distress migration.”

Pope Francis said in a statement that “hunger and malnutrition are not only natural or structural phenomena in determined geographical areas, but the result of a more complex condition of underdevelopment caused by the indifference of many or the selfishness of a few”. It is concrete decisions, he said, that lead to devastating consequences such as war and terrorism. “We are dealing with a complex mechanism that mainly burdens the most vulnerable, who are not only excluded from the processes of production, but frequently obliged to leave their lands in search of refuge and hope.”

According to FAO chief da Silva, “peace is of course the key to ending these crises” but he stressed that “we cannot wait for peace to take action.” He said there is much the world can do to fight hunger during conflicts and protracted crises. Vulnerable people need assistence so that they have the conditions to continue producing their own food. FAO announced its priorities for the next two years would include promoting sustainable agriculture, climate change mitigation and adaptation, poverty reduction, water scarcity, migration and the support of conflict-affected rural livelihoods. Despite the recent setbacks in the fight against hunger, da Silva said that he remained confident that achieving the international community’s goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030 is still possible, but only if countries translate their pledges into concrete action. (ab)

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