FOOD SHORTAGE

The world is headed into a catastrophic famine-WFP

Projections show that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030, which is the same as in 2015 when the 2030 Agenda was launched.

In Summary

•As many as 828 million people worldwide struggled with hunger in 2021, an increase of 46 million from the previous year, and 150 million more than before the Covid.

•Nearly 80 per cent of Africans are unable to afford a healthy diet, compared to just 1.9 per cent in North America. 

Hunger-stricken of Kang'irisai await relief food in Turkana.
DROUGHT EFFECTS: Hunger-stricken of Kang'irisai await relief food in Turkana.
Image: FILE

The global price spikes in food, fuel and fertilizers threatens to push countries around the world into a catastrophic hunger, World Food Program (WFP) warns.

"The result will be global destabilization, starvation, and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe," said David Beasley, WFP executive director.

A spot check by the Star reveals that families are currently surviving on one meal per day as the cost of living bites.

Prices of basic food commodities have gone up with a two-kg packet of maize flour, a staple food going for Sh230, while a 90 kg bag of maize has gone up to Sh7,000. 

Fuel prices also increased with a litre of super petrol currently retailing at Sh159.1 from Sh150 the previous month. Diesel rose by Sh10 to trade at Sh140 while kerosene now sells at Sh127.94 per litre. 

The prices are set to increase further as government plans to gradually scrap the subsidy kitty that has been cushioning consumers since July last year and this will only worsen the situation.

According to the latest United Nations report, despite hopes that the world would emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021 and food security would begin to improve, world hunger rose further last year.

The increase in global hunger reflects exacerbated inequalities across and within countries due to an unequal pattern of economic recovery and unrecovered income losses among those most affected by the pandemic.

United Nations projects that nearly 670 million people will still be facing hunger in 2030, eight per cent of the world population, which is the same as in 2015 when the 2030 Agenda was launched.

“There is a real danger these numbers will climb even higher in the months ahead,” Beasley said.

The report indicates that as many as 828 million people worldwide struggled with hunger in 2021, an increase of 46 million from the previous year, and 150 million more than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The numbers show persistent regional disparities, with Africa bearing the heaviest burden according to the report.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report indicates that one in five people in Africa (20.2 per cent of the population) was facing hunger in 2021.

This in comparison to 9.1 per cent in Asia, 8.6 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean, 5.8 per cent in Oceania, and less than 2.5 per cent in Northern America and Europe.

Nearly 80 per cent of Africans are unable to afford a healthy diet, compared to just 1.9 per cent in North America. 

After increasing sharply in 2020, the global prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity remained mostly unchanged in 2021.

Severe food insecurity however rose higher, reflecting a deteriorating situation for people already facing serious hardships.

According to the report around 2.3 billion people in the world were moderately or severely food insecure last year and 11.7 per cent of the global population faced food insecurity at severe levels. 

After remaining relatively unchanged since 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment jumped from 8.0 to 9.3 percent from 2019 to 2020 and rose at a slower pace in 2021 to 9.8 percent.

"These are depressing figures for humanity. We continue to move away from our goal of ending hunger by 2030,” Gilbert F. Houngbo, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) president said in a statement.

He added that the ripple effects of the global food crisis will most likely worsen the outcome again next year.

"We need a more intense approach to end hunger and IFAD stands ready to do its part by scaling up its operations and impact. We look forward to having everyone's support,” Houngbo said.

The report further notes that women are more likely to experience food insecurity than men in every region of the world.

This also harms the potential of children as an estimated 22 per cent of children under the age of five were stunted as of 2021, while 6.7 per cent were wasted, and 5.7 per cent were overweight.

Children in rural settings and poorer households, whose mothers received no formal education, were more vulnerable to stunting and wasting.

Children in urban areas and wealthier households on the other hand were at higher risk of overweight.

On the brighter side steady progress has been made on exclusive breastfeeding, with 43.8 per cent of infants under six months of age exclusively breastfed worldwide in 2020.

This is up from 37.1 per cent in 2012, but improvement must be accelerated to meet the 2030 target.

The report notes that infants residing in rural areas, in poorer households, who are female and whose mothers received no formal education are more likely to be breastfed. 

Globally in 2019, nearly one in three women aged 15 to 49 years (571 million) were affected by anaemia, with no progress since 2012 and almost 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020.

This is 112 million more than in 2019, reflecting the inflation in consumer food prices stemming from the economic impacts of the pandemic and the measures put in place to contain it.

The recent setbacks indicate that policies are no longer delivering increasing marginal returns in reducing hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms.