Half of world’s hungry are in Asia — UN report

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 17) — Over half of the people in the world who faced hunger in 2020 are Asians, a newly released report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

According to the "State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021" report, there were 768 million undernourished people in the world last year, higher than the 650.3 million in 2019.

FAO defines undernourishment as “the condition of an individual whose habitual food consumption is insufficient to provide, on average, the amount of dietary energy required to maintain a normal, active and healthy life.”

Of the total number of undernourished people in 2020, more than half, or 418 million, live in Asia, the FAO report said.

The majority are in Southern Asia with 305.7 million undernourished individuals. It was followed by South-eastern Asia with 48.8 million, Western Asia with 42.3 million, and Central Asia with 2.6 million, it added.

“The increase in hunger in 2020 is consistent with existing evidence of the economic hardships induced by the COVID-19 crisis that have likely aggravated inequalities in access to food,” said FAO.

“However, the speed, coverage, generosity and duration of the social protection responses varied across regions and countries, as did their effectiveness in mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on poverty,” it added.

The FAO also noted that in countries affected by economic downturns combined with climate-related disasters and conflict, undernourishment were more than five times greater than in countries only affected by economic downturns.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, an estimated 3.4 million families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in three months, the independent pollster Social Weather Stations said in its June 2021 survey.

The SWS said the decline in hunger rate is due to decreases in hunger in all areas nationwide, especially in the Visayas.

With the hunger brought by the several lockdowns, community pantries also sprung in different areas of the country early this year to offer free food to the needy.

Ending hunger in 2030

The FAO said it is aiming to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, but it admitted that it is not on track to achieve that goal.

“Comparing the COVID-19 scenario to the hypothetical no-COVID-19 scenario, we see that global hunger in 2030 is projected to be above the level it would have been had the pandemic not occurred,” said FAO.

“About 30 million more people may face hunger in 2030 compared with the no-COVID-19 scenario, revealing possible persistent effects of the pandemic on global food security.”