Over 122 million people facing hunger due to climate change, COVID-19 pandemic – UN

Chijioke Iremeka

United Nations agencies say over 122 million people are currently facing hunger across the world due to weather shocks, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The agencies that include the Food and Agriculture Organisation; International Fund for Agricultural Development; United Nations Children’s Fund; World Food Programme and World Health Organisation, made this known in a joint report.

In the report, titled, ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023,’ the agencies said the number of people experiencing hunger worldwide has moved from 690 in 2021 to 783 million in 2022, an increase of 122 million people compared to pre-pandemic figures.

According to them, while global hunger figures stalled between 2021 and 2022, there are many places in the world facing deepening food crises.

The report noted that approximately 2.4 billion individuals, largely women and residents of rural areas, do not have consistent access to nutritious, safe, and sufficient food in 2022, stating that child malnutrition is still alarmingly high.

“In 2021, 22.3 per cent (148.1 million) children were stunted; 6.8 per cent (45 million) were wasted and 5.6 per cent (37 million) were overweight,” the report stated.

As urbanisation accelerates, the report noted that there will be a noticeable increase in consumption of processed and convenience foods, leading to a spike in overweight and obesity rates across urban, peri-urban, and rural areas.

It stated, “Previously self-sustaining rural regions, especially in Africa and Asia, are now found to be increasingly dependent on national and global food markets.”

The report projected that by 2050, 70 per cent of the global population will reside in cities, adding, “This significant demographic shift necessitates a reorientation of food systems to cater to these new urban populations and eradicate hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.”

In an increasingly urbanised world grappling with the aftermath of the global pandemic and major geopolitical conflicts, the report indicates that global food systems face unprecedented challenges.

“The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023, provides a comprehensive overview of these complexities. This report captures the state of global hunger, malnutrition, and the rapidly changing dynamics of food security.

“Urbanisation, once thought to blur the lines between rural and urban food accessibility, is now drastically reshaping food systems and affecting the availability and affordability of healthy diets,” the report added.

Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, said over 4.3 million Nigerians in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states are affected by severe hunger and malnutrition.

In a statement published on the UN site, he said the number of children under five at risk of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition had doubled in one year to reach 700,000.

He said millions of people in the region are facing hunger and children’s lives are on the line amid a protracted conflict and intensifying climate change.

“I have been to Borno and the other two states several times; I have seen mothers fighting for the lives of their malnourished children in nutrition stabilisation centres.

“The children he spoke to complained about being hungry for days. Those of us who are parents must imagine what it is like when you cannot ensure your children have enough to eat.

“The catastrophic situation is primarily the result of over a decade of insecurity linked to non-state armed groups, which prevents people from farming and earning an income from the land,” he said.

Schmale blamed climate change and extreme weather impacts for contributing to the situation, noting that 2022 saw the worst floods in 10 years in Nigeria, which affected over 4.4 million people across the country, not just the Northeast.

However, a dietician-nutritionist at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Nwabumma Asouzu, said malnutrition has adverse impacts on the well-being and survival of children.

Asouzu, who noted that malnutrition makes children more susceptible to diseases and infections, said it slows wound healing, delays the recovery of children suffering from infections and warned against ignoring the consequences of malnutrition in children.

 

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