Hunger in the rising world: drought and conflict are constant threats

Publicação: 6 de November de 2019

The main causes are linked to extreme weather events, violent conflicts, wars, downturns and economic crisis

The number of malnourished people increased from 785 million in 2015 to 822 million in 2018. In addition, unpredictable and difficult conditions are hindering the production of food needed for a growing population

According to the latest United Nations data, more than two billion people, almost a quarter of the world’s population, do not have access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. At least 820 million people suffer from hunger. Hunger is increasing in almost all African regions, making the African continent the region where malnutrition is proportionally highest, at nearly 20%. It is also increasing in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Asia, warned United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director Enrique Yeves.

World hunger is on the rise and the main causes are linked to extreme weather events, violent conflicts, wars, downturns and economic crisis that continue to generate hunger in many parts of the world. The number of malnourished people increased from 785 million in 2015 to 822 million in 2018. In addition, unpredictable and difficult conditions are hindering the production of the food needed for a growing population.

According to the “Global Hunger Index 2019 – The Challenge of Hunger and Climate Change (GHI)”, annual newsletter developed by Concern Worldwide, in partnership with Welthungerhilfe, 45 countries run the risk of still suffering from chronic hunger by 2030, which means that much of the world will fall behind the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Global Hunger Index also highlights where intervention may be most needed. The place with the highest hunger level is the Central African Republic, followed by Yemen, Chad, Madagascar and Zambia. Of the 117 countries analyzed, 43 have serious levels of hunger. Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria – where the index could not be applied because data are not available, the situation of hunger and malnutrition is considered worrying.

Also according to the report, Latin America was the region with the lowest hunger rates. With an average of 14 points in 2000, Latin American countries reduced the criteria evaluated to 9 points in 2018, an index considered low by the organization. The document also looks at hunger in Haiti, one of seven countries with a very severe index, and in Niger. These countries have serious levels of hunger and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Brazil is less vulnerable to hunger, according to the Global Index and is not among the 47 countries with alarming hunger rates. On the contrary, even compared to other countries, we appear to be at a low level of vulnerability to hunger, despite the 13 million undernourished people who appeared in last year’s data published in a FAO report. Other positive examples cited in the document were Angola, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Myanmar, with improvements of over 45%.

Extreme hunger threatens more than two million in Somalia

Since the early 1990’s, Somalia has been experiencing hunger and pain. Stricken by a severe famine, the African country has reported thousands of deaths, mainly caused by armed conflicts in the region and also by the high price of food. This year alone, at least 302,000 people were forced to leave their homes due to violence and severe droughts. According to data from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) non-governmental organization and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), violence and insecurity accounted for more than half of these displacements (158,000), while the drought drove out another 126,000 people.

Due to the humanitarian crisis, more than two million people are threatened by extreme hunger in the country, while another three million are unsure when they will have access to their next meal. According to UN Under-Secretary-General Mark Lowcock, of the 15 million Somalis, more than three million are struggling to meet minimum food needs. Experts describe this crisis as a climate emergency and say the population is still trying to recover from the long drought that ended in 2017.

FAO reported in early September that this year’s cereal harvest in Somalia is the worst since 2011. The organization attributes this result to unstable weather patterns, or climate shocks. The United Nations has warned that in the absence of humanitarian assistance, more than 2.1 million people are expected to face severe hunger in December. The findings are part of the latest Unit Data report FAO’s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis for Somalia (FSNAU), which predicts that this scenario should leverage the total number of Somali exposed to food insecurity to 6.3 million by the end of this year. The international humanitarian community and the government jointly launched a Drought Response Plan which began in June and ends in December.

The current scenario is 40% more severe than FAO’s estimate earlier this year regarding the number of food-insecure Somalis, totaling an estimated 2.6 million displaced people living in makeshift settlements outside the city areas facing hunger and affected by violence for nearly three decades. Somalia has been in a state of war and chaos since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown, leaving the country without effective government and in the hands of radical Islamic militias.

Hunger in Somalia: photo that generated commotion and revolt in the world

American photographer James Nachtwey was responsible for scandalizing the world by alerting the situation in the African country. Nachtwey recorded cruel scenes, including the 1992 Somali Hunger photo scene, considered by TIME to be one of the 100 most influential images of all time. Skeletal people, with bones very evident in their thin bodies, showed the horror of the period. A woman is inside a wheelbarrow, waiting to be taken to a food center. The image was published in a New York Times cover article and generated a commotion and collective uprising across the planet. The Red Cross stressed that the shock caused by the images generated the largest humanitarian operation since World War II.