Global hunger surges by 150m as UN warns of looming catastrophe

The number of people going hungry globally has risen by 150 million since the start of the Covid pandemic, with the Russian-Ukraine war threatening to push the worst-hit countries into famine, the United Nations said.

About 828 million people of the world’s population were affected by hunger last year, 46 million more than in 2020 and 150 million more than in 2019, agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Programme and World Health Organisation said in the 2022 edition of the UN food security and nutrition report.

“There is a real danger these numbers will climb even higher in the months ahead,” said David Beasley, executive director, World Food Programme.

“The global price spikes in food, fuel, and fertilizers that we are seeing as a result of the crisis in Ukraine threaten to push countries around the world into famine,” Beasley said.

“The result will be global destabilization, starvation, and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe.”

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With the price of energy, food, and fertiliser soaring since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UN report released on Wednesday warned that prices are expected to surge further and inequalities will keep intensifying.

The report estimated that 149 million children under five were stunted due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients, while 45 million were wasting.

Also, the report called for an overhaul of agricultural policies, saying it has received almost $630 billion yearly in support between 2013 and 2018 that did not bulk farmers, hurt the environment, and did not promote the production of nutritious foods.

“These are depressing figures for humanity. We continue to move away from our goal of ending hunger by 2030,” Gilbert Houngbo, president of IFAD.

“We continue to move away from our goal of ending hunger by 2031. The ripple effects of the global food crisis will most likely worsen the outcome again next year,” he said.

“We need a more intense approach to end hunger,” he added.

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