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Hunger worsens in the world and prospects for 2020 are bleak, says UN

Almost one in nine people suffered from chronic malnutrition in 2019, a proportion that is expected to worsen with the pandemic of coronavirus – points out an annual UN report released today.

According to the latest estimates, last year, hunger affected almost 690 million people, that is, 8.9% of the world population, reports the document of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), written with the collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Food Program and the World Health Organization (WHO).

This represents 10 million more people than in 2018 and 60 million more than in 2014.

“If the trend continues, we estimate that by 2030, that number will exceed 840 million people. This clearly means that the goal (to eradicate hunger by 2030, established by the UN in 2015) is not on the right track,” Thibault told AFP Meilland, FAO policy analyst.

And not to mention the economic and health shock caused by the pandemic of the coronavirus, which caused loss of income, rising food prices, interruption of supply chains, etc.

According to the report, the global recession caused by the new coronavirus is likely to starve between 83 and 132 million more people.

“These are still relatively conservative hypotheses, the situation is evolving,” observes Meilland.

The estimate of malnutrition in the world is much lower than in previous editions: last year’s report mentioned more than 820 million hungry people. But the figures cannot be compared: the integration of recently accessible data – in particular from surveys conducted by China on households in the country – has led to a revision of all estimates since 2000.

“This is not a drop (in the number of people suffering from malnutrition), it is a review. Everything has been recalculated based on these new numbers,” insists Meilland.

“As China represents a fifth of the world population, this update has important consequences for global numbers”, points out the FAO analyst.

“Even if the global number is lower, the finding of an increase in malnutrition since 2014 is confirmed”, he adds.

Cost of poor food

Among the points of improvement, the prevalence of stunting among five-year-olds fell by a third between 2000 and 2019, with about 21% of affected children worldwide. More than 90% of them live in Asia or Africa.

In addition to malnutrition, the report points out that an increasing number of people “had to reduce the quantity and quality of the food they eat”.

Thus, two billion people suffer from “food insecurity”, that is, they do not have regular access to nutritious food in sufficient quality and quantity, he indicates.

Even more (3 billion) are those who do not have the means to maintain a diet considered balanced, with, in particular, sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables.

“On average, a healthy diet costs five times more than a diet that only meets energy needs with starchy foods,” says Meilland.

Thus, obesity is increasing in both adults and children.

UN specialized agencies estimate that, if food consumption patterns do not change, their impact on direct health care costs and loss of economic productivity is expected to reach $ 1.3 trillion a year by 2030.

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