UN: Climate Change, Depleted Resources Leave World Hungry


  • GS Prelims, GS Mains paper I, III
  • Food Security, Environment, UN report

Why in News?

  • A report released by the UN on 28thNov 2018 renewed appeals for better policies and technologies to reach “zero hunger.
  • The FAO and International Food Policy Research Institute released the report at the outset of a global conference aimed at speeding up efforts to achieve zero hunger(One of the US Sustainable Development Goal) around the world.


  • Feeding a hungry planet is growing increasingly difficult as climate change and depletion of land and other resources undermine food systems, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization said
  • Food security remains tenuous for many millions of people who lack access to affordable, adequately nourishing diets for a variety of reasons, the most common being poverty.
  • Increasing farm output beyond sustainable levels can cause permanent damage to ecosystems. It often causes soil erosion, pollution with plastic mulching, pesticides and fertilizers, and a loss of biodiversity.
  • Population growth requires supplies of more nutritious food at affordable prices, but increasing farm output is hard given the “fragility of the natural resource base” since humans have outstripped Earth’s carrying capacity in terms of land, water and climate change.

Some Stats:

  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 815 million people of the 7.6 billion people in the world, or 10.7%, were suffering from chronic undernourishment.
  • In Afghanistan, severe drought and conflict have displaced more than 250,000 people, according to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency.
  • But it’s also endangered by civil strife and other conflicts. In Yemen, where thousands of civilians have died in airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition, the aid group Save the Children says 85,000 children younger than 5 may have died of hunger or disease in the civil war.
  • Hunger is still most severe in Africa, but the largest number of undernourished people live in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • China destroys 12 million tons of tainted grain each year, at a loss of nearly $2.6 billion, according to the report.
  • There has been the least progress in the sub-Saharan region, where about 23 percent of people remain undernourished – the highest prevalence of any region in the world. Nevertheless, the prevalence of undernourishment in sub-Saharan Africa has declined from 33.2 percent in 1990– 92 to 23.2 percent in 2014–16, although the number of undernourished people has actually increased (FAO et al., 2017).
  • In Southern Asia, which includes the countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the prevalence of undernourishment is rising again, increasing from 9.4 percent in 2015 to 11.5 percent in 2016 (FAO et al., 2017). Eastern Asia (where China is the largest country) and South-eastern Asia (including Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam) have reduced undernutrition substantially.
  • Latin America has the most successful developing region record in increasing food security; however, the prevalence of undernutrition has been rising again, especially in South America, from 5 percent in 2015 to 5.6 percent in 2016 (FAO et al., 2017).

Hunger and Children:

What are the causes of hunger (Given by FAO)?

  1. Povertyis the principal cause of hunger. The causes of poverty include lack of resources, unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict and hunger itself. However, although the number of people living in extreme poverty globally has been declining, in lower-middle-income regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, the number is actually growing.
  2. Hungeris also a cause of poverty, and thus of hunger, in a cyclical relationship. By causing poor health, small body size, low levels of energy and reductions in mental functioning, hunger can lead to even greater poverty by reducing people’s ability to work and learn, thus leading to even greater hunger. See Victoria et al. 2008.
  3. Conflict. More than half (489 million) of the 815 million hungry people in the world live in countries affected by conflict. Ranging from non-state and state-based violence to one-sided violence, some of the conflicts that result in internal or international displacement have occurred in Syria, Yemen, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Myanmar, among many other countries throughout the world. In addition, most of the 19 countries listed by FAO as countries in complex, prolonged conflict are located in Africa. In 2016, the average prevalence of undernourishment in countries undergoing conflict was about four percentage points greater than the prevalence in non-conflict countries (FAO et al., 2017). About 75 percent of children in the world who are stunted live in conflict areas

Some definitions:

  • Hungerdefines a short-term physical discomfort as a result of chronic food shortage, or in severe cases, a life-threatening lack of food.
  • World hungerrefers to hunger aggregated to the global level. Related terms include food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Food insecurityrefers to limited or unreliable access to foods that are safe and nutritionally adequate.
  • Malnutritionis a condition resulting from insufficient intake of biologically necessary nutrients. Although malnutrition includes both overnutrition and undernutrition, the focus for global hunger is undernutrition.


Where lies the solution?

  • The report said good public policies and technology are the keys to improving the situation.
  • The FAO estimates that global demand for food will jump by half from 2013 to 2050.
  • Farmers can expand land use to help make up some of the difference, but that option is constrained in places like Asia and the Pacific and urbanizationis eating up still more land that once may have been used for agriculture.
  • Increasing farm outputbeyond sustainable levels can cause permanent damage to ecosystems, leading to soil erosion, pollution with plastic mulching, pesticides and fertilizers, and a loss of biodiversity.


FYI: FAO Director-General is Jose Graziano da Silva


UN: Climate Change, Depleted Resources Leave World Hungry

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