World hunger is on the rise for the third year in a row A food pantry in Baltimore, Maryland. (Baltimore Heritage/USDA/Flickr)
World hunger is on the rise for the third year in a row
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Growth in agricultural methods and food distribution have steadily lowered hunger rates. This has been true in nations across the globe. This has been true for decades. But progress has been bumped off the tracks. That's according Jason Beaubien. He was reporting for NPR. 

New data has been put together. It was put together by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (F.A.O.). Other agencies helped with the report. It found that hunger has gone up. It has gone up across the world. It has gone up for the third year in a row.

The recent report is somewhat surprising. The rate of undernourishment in the developing world had fallen. It fell from 23.3 percent of people between the years 1990 to 1992 to 12.9 percent. This was as recents as 2015. 

But just as that percentage dropped by almost half, the numbers began to reflect global hunger on the rise. There were 783.7 million people affected by hunger in 2014. That number went up to 784.4 in 2015. It went up to 804.2 in 2016. The latest report is even higher. It bumps the number of those affected to 820.8 million.

So what’s causing the increase in hunger? The report points to two main culprits. The first culprit is conflicts around the globe. The second culprit is extreme weather events. These are likely powered by climate change. There are conflicts in Yemen. In Afghanistan. In Syria. And in Somalia. These have led to food issues. They impact millions of people. The drop in crude oil prices has led to economic problems in South America. This is particularly true in Venezuela. More than 2.3 million people have fled the country. They left mainly due to food issues.

Some of the worst droughts ever seen have occurred in Africa. These have happened over the last decade. It has affected nations all over the continent. This includes parts of West Africa. It includes the Horn of Africa. And it includes Southern Africa. Droughts have hurt agriculture. And they have impacted food availability. This is true across the region.

“[T]he underlying problem with hunger and why we see so much hunger is also poverty, income inequalities and the marginalization of populations.” That's according to editor Cindy Holleman. She is senior economist for food security and nutrition. She works at the F.A.O. That is what she told Zipporah Nyambura at Deutsche Welle. “But what's new is we’re seeing increasing climate variability. Africa has been hard hit. In the last 10 years, Africa has been especially hit with climate variability and extremes.”

The impacts of hunger can be severe. For instance, 151 million children under the age of 5 have stunted growth. It is due to malnourishment. This is according to the report. 

And 50.5 million experience wasting. This means they are severely underweight. It may seem odd, but hunger also leads to higher rates of obesity. This leads to other health problems. One problem is diabetes. 

The global percentage of obese people had reached 13.2 percent. This was in 2016. That's according to an F.A.O. press release. This was true even in nations where hunger was on the rise. The reasons for this are complex. Fresh food is often costly. So people are drawn toward fat and sugar-filled processed foods. This creates a “feast-or-famine” style of eating. People gorge when food is available. Then people go hungry when it is not. This is also believed to lead to metabolic changes. These could cause unwanted weight gain.

The reversal in hunger rates isn’t just a temporary blip. Experts don’t see the trend reversing on its own. They fear that it will get worse. That is if there is no changes made. The report suggests that efforts must be made to end global conflicts. Efforts must also be made to stop climate change. Nations must be stronger against natural disasters. These might include floods. It may also include droughts. Changes are needed to get things back on track.

The UN will fail to achieve one of its most important sustainable development goals. That's if the trend continues. The UN's agenda includes ending poverty. They want to improve health and education by 2030. This agenda was approved in 2015. 

“The alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning. There is considerable work to be done to make sure we 'leave no one behind' on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition.” That's what the study’s authors wrote.

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