11 September 2018: The 2018 edition of the report titled, ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Building Climate Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition’ (SOFI 2018), confirms that the reversal in the global trend on hunger is sustained. In 2017, the number of hungry people in the world increased from 804 million to nearly 821 million, reaching a level last seen a decade ago.

The annual publication is produced by a consortium of international organizations. Since 2017, the publication covers indicators and progress on all targets relating to food security an nutrition under SDG 2 (zero hunger). The findings of the 2018 edition show that on most of these indicators global progress is either too slow or headed in the wrong direction.

Specific findings include:

  • In 2017, the number of people in the world suffering from hunger increased by more than 2% from 804 million to 821 million. The prevalence of undernourishment increased to 10.9% meaning that almost one in nine persons in the world is suffering from some form of hunger. Hunger is increasing the fastest in most regions of Africa and several areas in South America, while progress in reducing hunger in Asia has slowed significantly.
  • The number of stunted children due to undernutrition has declined from 165.2 million in 2012 to 150.8 million in 2017; however the number is still “unacceptably high” in view of the target to reduce stunting by 40% by 2025.
  • Globally 7,5% of children under five (50.5 million) suffer from wasting defined as “low weight relative to their body height” and are thus at higher risk of mortality. In 2017, 12.6% of deaths in children under five were related to wasting.
  • The rate of infants that were exclusively breastfed for the first six months increased from 36.9% in 2012 to 40.7% in 2017. At the same time, the number of women of reproductive age suffering from anemia increased from 30.3% in 2012 to 32.8% in 2016. Anemia causes substantial health consequences for pregnant women and impacts the development of children.
  • The rate of overweight children grew slightly from 5.4% to 5.6%, whereas the rate of adult obesity continued to increase from 11.7% in 2013 to 13.2% in 2016. More than one in eight adults worldwide is obese.

The report notes that hunger and obesity often co-exist and are closely related as childhood malnutrition increases the risk of developing obesity at later stages in life. Furthermore, for poor people, food rich in sugar, fat and salt is often more accessible than nutritious food. The report therefore calls for an integrated approach to tackling malnutrition that: frames access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food as a human right, with priority given to the most vulnerable; pays special attention to the food security and nutrition of children under five, school-age children and adolescent girls and women; and includes a shift towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that provide safe and high-quality food, promoting healthy diets for all.

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.

Overall the report concludes that the world is currently not on track to achieve SDG 2. In their preface, the heads of the contributing organizations state that “[t]he alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning that 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.”

Climate Change Threatens Food Security

The report also investigates the role of increasing local climate variability due to global climate change impacts on food insecurity and hunger, showing, among other findings, that:

  • the number of climate-related disasters such as heat, drought, floods and storms has doubled between 1990 and 2016, with clearly associated impacts on food and nutrition indicators;
  • on average, the prevalence of undernutrition in countries exposed to climate variability and extreme weather events is 3.6% higher than in other countries, whereas the absolute number of malnourished people living in those countries is 2.5 times the number of malnourished people living in other countries; and
  • the majority of countries (34 out of 51) suffering from food crises due to conflict are also impacted by climate variability and extreme weather.

Climate change and conflict, which were addressed in SOFI 2017, are the two main drivers of the increase in global hunger, the report concludes. It calls for urgent scaling up of investments in climate resilience of livelihoods and food systems. Solutions to do so require increased partnerships, enhanced risk management capacities and multi-year, predictable large-scale funding, the report finds.

SOFI 2018 was jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Its findings and recommendations will be further discussed at the 45th session of the Committee on World Food Security to be held from 15-19 October 2018 in Rome, Italy. [Joint News Release by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO] [UNFCCC Press Release] [Report Webpage] [Report Summary] [Publication: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018]