A World of One Billion Empty Plates

Ten of the world’s worst climate hotspots have suffered a 123 percent rise in acute hunger over just the past six years, according to a new report from Oxfam. Credit: FAO - In 2021, an estimated 29.3% of the global population were moderately or severely food insecure, and 11.7% faced severe food insecurity

Ten of the world’s worst climate hotspots have suffered a 123 percent rise in acute hunger over just the past six years, according to a new report from Oxfam. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Sep 23 2022 – Have you eaten today – or are sure you will? The answer depends on where you were born and where you live now. If you are Spanish or live here, you likely did or will, provided that you are not one of this European country’s 900.000 inhabitants who face some sort of hunger, malnutrition or undernourishment.

If instead, you are among the 550 million plus Africans who suffer moderate hunger (40 percent of the continent’s total population of 1.300 plus) or severe hunger (some 300 million or 24 percent of all Africans), your answer would be that you will likely –or surely– go to bed hungry… also today.

A similar dark fate is also prevailing in other ‘developing’ regions, usually defined as mid- and low-income countries. In Asia, with nearly 10 percent or about 500 million of its combined population of almost 5 billion, representing 60 percent of the whole world’s inhabitants.

Severe food insecurity has increased, providing further evidence of a deteriorating situation mainly for those already facing serious hardships. In 2021, an estimated 29.3 percent of the global population – 2.3 billion people – were moderately or severely food insecure, and 11.7 percent (923.7 million people) faced severe food insecurity

In the case of Latin America and the Caribbean, the percentage of humans falling into moderate to severe hunger and food insecurity amounts to 9 percent of the region’s total population of 550 million inhabitants.

Just for the sake of comparison, such numbers barely reach 2.5 percent of the Northern American population (600 million) and Europe (750 million).

In short: it is estimated that between 702 and 828 million people in the world (corresponding to 8.9 percent and 10.5 percent of the total population, respectively) faced hunger in 2021.

 

Too many explanations, same consequences

These are figures, numbers. The reality is that one billion human beings are right at this moment living in the darkness of food scarcity, if ever any food at all.

For them, no matter if the mainstream media now pretends that their fate is caused by just one war or the usual exercise of speculation and greed that hikes food prices.

Many of the millions of hungry people are probably not aware that the world has been producing enough food to cover all the needs of Planet Earth’s population.

Nor that over a third of the total food production is wasted, dumped into rubbish bins, and lost in inadequate storage facilities.

No matter if the international scientific community every single day warns that climate change, severe droughts, catastrophic floods and other factors add to the sharp shortage of funds to save lives while fuelling armed conflicts and dedicating unprecedented spending on weapons of mass destruction (more than 2 trillion US dollars in 2021) See: New World Records: More Weapons than Ever. And a Hunger Crisis Like No Other

 

What is food insecurity?

Food security is defined as the adequate access to food in both quality and quantity.

Moderate food insecurity: People experiencing moderate food insecurity face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food, and have been forced to compromise on the quality and/or quantity of the food they consume.

Severe food insecurity: People experiencing severe food insecurity have typically run out of food and at worst, gone a day (or days) without eating.

 

Wrong direction

“The world is moving in the wrong direction,” confirms the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which –among other international bodies– has just released the above-cited figures in its 2022 report: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.

New estimates for 2021 suggest that the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity has remained relatively unchanged compared with 2020, reports FAO, adding that “severe food insecurity has increased, providing further evidence of a deteriorating situation mainly for those already facing serious hardships.”

“In 2021, an estimated 29.3 percent of the global population – 2.3 billion people – were moderately or severely food insecure, and 11.7 percent (923.7 million people) faced severe food insecurity.”

In other words: extreme hunger has more than doubled in 10 of the world’s worst climate hotspots over the past six years.

“Ten of the world’s worst climate hotspots – those with the highest number of UN appeals driven by extreme weather events – have suffered a 123 percent rise in acute hunger over just the past six years,” according to an Oxfam report on 16 September 2022.

 

Hunger discriminates

There is also a growing gender gap in food insecurity. In 2021, 31.9 percent of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure compared to 27.6 percent of men – a gap of more than 4 percentage points, compared with 3 percentage points in 2020, according to the report.

The latest estimate for low birthweight revealed that 14.6 percent of newborns (20.5 million) were born with a low birth weight in 2015, a modest decrease from 17.5 percent (22.9 million) in 2000.

Optimal breastfeeding practices, including exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, are critical for child survival and the promotion of health and cognitive development.

But it is not so. In fact, the world’s leading health and children specialised organisations have once again sounded the alarm bell about what they classify as “shocking, insidious, exploitative, aggressive, misleading and pervasive” marketing tricks used by the baby formula milk business with the sole aim of increasing, even more, their already high profits.

In fact, FAO reports that globally, the prevalence has risen from 37.1 percent (49.9 million) in 2012 to 43.8 percent (59.4 million) in 2020. Still, more than half of all infants under six months of age globally did not receive the protective benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, according to the report, which adds the following:

Stunting, the condition of being too short for one’s age, undermines the physical and cognitive development of children, increases their risk of dying from common infections and predisposes them to overweight and non-communicable diseases later in life.

Child wasting is a life-threatening condition caused by insufficient nutrient intake, poor nutrient absorption, and/or frequent or prolonged illness. Affected children are dangerously thin with weakened immunity and a higher risk of mortality. The prevalence of wasting among children under five years of age was 6.7 percent (45.4 million) in 2020.

Children who are overweight or obese face both immediate and potentially long-term health impacts, including a higher risk of non-communicable diseases later in life.

Globally, the prevalence of overweight among children under five years of age increased slightly from 5.4 percent (33.3 million) in 2000 to 5.7 percent (38.9 million) in 2020. Rising trends are seen in around half of the countries worldwide.

Anaemia: The prevalence of anaemia among women aged 15 to 49 years was estimated to be 29.9 percent in 2019.

The absolute number of women with anaemia has risen steadily from 493 million in 2000 to 570.8 million in 2019, which has implications for female morbidity and mortality and can lead to adverse pregnancy and newborn outcomes.

Globally, adult obesity nearly doubled in absolute value from 8.7 percent (343.1 million) in 2000 to 13.1 percent (675.7 million) in 2016.

Children in rural settings and poorer households are more vulnerable to stunting and wasting. Children and adults, particularly women, in urban areas and wealthier households are at higher risk of overweight and obesity, respectively.

Infants residing in rural areas, in poorer households, with mothers who received no formal education and female infants are more likely to be breastfed. Women with no formal education are more vulnerable to anaemia and their children to stunting and wasting.

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