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Undernourishment shoots up in Africa, says new report

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A NEW multi-agency report says Africa last year has seen a sharp increase in people suffering from under-nourishment which is double that of any another region of the world.

The report, released at the beginning of this month by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), World Food Programme (WPF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), says while the Covid-19 pandemic has yet to be fully mapped out, up to 811 million people were undernourished last year.

Entitled ‘The State of the Food Security and Nutrition in the World,’ this is the first global assessment of its kind in the Covid-19 pandemic era and said already in 2010, hunger had started creeping upwards, dashing hopes of irreversible decline.

It says more than half of all under-nourished people (418 million) live in Asia, and more than a third (282 million) in Africa.

“On other measurements too, the year 2020 was somber. Overall, more than 2,3 billion people (or 30 percent of the global population) lacked year-round access to enough food. This actor known as the prevalence or moderate or severe food insecurity, leapt in one year as much as in the preceding five combined,” said the report.

Gender inequality deepened for every 10 insecure men, while there were 11 food insecurity women in 2020.

Other hunger and malnutrition drivers

The report says in many parts of the world, the pandemic has triggered brutal recessions and jeopardised access to food yet, even before the pandemic, hunger was spreading.

This, the report says, was all the more so in nations affected by conflict, climate extremes or other economic down-turns or battling with inequality, all of which the report identifies as major drivers of food insecurity, which in turn interact. On the current trends, the report estimates that Sustainable Development Goal No 2 (Zero Hunger by 2030) will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people, of which 30 million may be linked to the pandemic’s lasting effects.

The report says for the situation to be addressed, transforming food systems was essential to achieve food security, improve nutrition and put healthy diets within reach for all.

It calls or the scaling-up of climate change resilience across food systems, tackling poverty and structural inequalities and strengthening food environments and change consumer behaviour.

The report also calls or the creation of an enabling environment of governance mechanisms and institutions to make transformation possible. “The world must act now or watch the drivers of hunger and malnutrition recur with growing intensity in coming years, long after the shock of the pandemic has passed,” it said.

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