World hunger is on the rise despite ample food supplies -- and the implications are dire

World hunger spiked last year, worsened by a number of factors like global conflicts, climate change, and political crises, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.

The increase comes after a decade-long decline, the FAO said, and leaves some 11% of the world’s population suffering from hunger and malnutrition that have documented long-term health and cognitive effects.

“There is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, yet 815 million people go hungry,” the report said.

In addition to a rise in chronic hunger, the number of undernourished human beings increased to an estimated 815 million in 2016 from 777 million in 2015, the UN report said.

“This sobering news comes in a year in which famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months in 2017 and food insecurity situations at risk of turning into famines were identified in other conflict-affected countries, namely Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen,” the FAO said.

“The food security situation visibly worsened in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South Eastern and Western Asia,” the report added. “This was most notable in situations of conflict, in particular where the food security impacts of conflict were compounded by droughts of floods, linked in part to El Niño phenomenon and climate-related shocks.” World conflicts have risen sharply since 2010, according to the UN, as the chart below shows.

Population growth and climate change make the challenge of defeating global hunger all the more pressing.

“One of the greatest challenges the world faces is how to ensure that a growing global population — projected to rise to around 10 billion by 2050 — has enough food to meet their nutritional needs,” the report said. “To feed another two billion people in 2050, food production will need to increase by 50% globally.”

Even in countries that are not affected by war or conflict, low commodity prices have crippled revenue streams for many export-dependent economies, leaving their poorest populations vulnerable. “Food availability has been affected through reduced import capacity while access to food has deteriorated in part due to reduced fiscal potential to protect poor households against rising domestic food prices,” according to the report.

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