World hunger levels surged again last year after skyrocketing in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Ukraine conflict and climate change threatening famine and mass migration on a “unprecedented scale” this year, according to United Nations agencies.

According to the 2022 edition of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program, and World Health Organization, up to 828 million people, or nearly 10% of the world’s population, were affected by hunger last year, 46 million more than in 2020 and 150 million more than in 2019.

Between 2015 and 2019, global hunger levels stayed reasonably stable.

“There is a real danger these numbers will climb even higher in the months ahead,” said WFP executive director David Beasley, adding price spikes in food, fuel and fertilizers stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war threaten to push countries into famine.

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

Russia and Ukraine are the world’s third and fourth biggest grain exporters, respectively, and Russia is also a major supplier of petroleum and fertilizer.

The conflict has hampered their exports, driven global food prices to record highs, and sparked demonstrations in underdeveloped nations already dealing with high food costs as a result of COVID-19-related supply chain problems.

The United Nations study issued on Wednesday warned of “potentially sobering” repercussions for food security and nutrition if conflict, climatic extremes, economic shocks, and inequities continue to worsen.

It was anticipated that 22 percent of children under the age of five were stunted in 2020, with 6.7 percent, or 45 million, suffering from wasting, a lethal type of malnutrition that raises the risk of mortality by up to 12 times.

The report, which calls for an overhaul of agricultural policies, claims that the global food and agriculture sector receives nearly $630 billion in support each year, which often distorts market prices, does not reach small-scale farmers, harms the environment, and does not promote nutritious food production.

Subsidies are provided to calorie-rich staple foods such as cereals, sugar, meat, and dairy at the price of healthy, nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, pulses, and seeds.

“Every year, 11 million people die due to unhealthy diets. Rising food prices mean this will only get worse,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“WHO supports countries’ efforts to improve food systems through taxing unhealthy foods, subsidizing healthy options, protecting children from harmful marketing, and ensuring clear nutrition labels,” he added.

Source: pharmalive


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