FAO - Rising prices and food insecurity are joining the ranks of the hungry

BANGKOK (AP) — More and more people in Asia go without enough to eat as food insecurity increases with higher prices and worsening poverty, according to a report released Tuesday by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. and Agriculture and other United Nations agencies.

Nearly half a billion people, more than eight in 10 in South Asia, were undernourished in 2021 and more than 1 billion faced moderate to severe food insecurity, according to the report. For the world, the prevalence of food insecurity increased to over 29% in 2021 from 21% in 2014.

The COVID-19 pandemic was a major setback, causing massive job losses and disruptions, and the war in Ukraine has pushed up food prices, energy and fertilizers, put a proper diet out of reach for many millions, he said.

The report is the fifth annual stocktaking on food insecurity and hunger by UN agencies, including the FAO, UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme.

During those years, progress toward alleviating hunger and malnutrition stalled and then receded as increasing numbers of people lost the means to get enough to eat. The prevalence of malnutrition measured by UN agencies was 9.1% in 2021, better than 14.3% in 2000 but slightly higher than in 2020.

Such figures show that “the slowdown in the fight against hunger continues,” says the report, which also highlights the growing food insecurity faced by people who have moved to cities, where they have less access to affordable food.

“Reforming our agri-food systems to produce nutritious food and ensuring equitable access to healthy diets is critical,” he said.

The FAO Food Price Index has risen in recent years, hitting a record high in March 2022. It fell back as commodity prices eased a bit later in the year, but is still 28% above 2020 level.

The Asia-Pacific region imports nearly $2 trillion worth of food each year. Rising prices for staples like rice, wheat, and oil hit the poor hardest.

It is part of what UN agencies call the “5F” crisis of lack of food, feed, fertilizer, fuel and financing. The conflict in Ukraine has dealt a heavy blow to many countries that depended on the region for wheat, edible oils and fertilizers.

Nearly 2 billion people, or nearly 45% of people living in Asia, cannot afford a healthy diet, contributing to problems of anemia and obesity, as well as hunger.

Underscoring the impact of the pandemic, which hit vulnerable workers in the tourism and manufacturing industries especially hard, nearly one in 10 Thais were undernourished in 2019-2021, according to the report’s data, a higher proportion than several years earlier. and also than in many other Southeast Asian countries where average incomes are much lower. Poverty had already increased by 2.6% between 2015 and 2018, according to World Bank data.

“An increase in poverty and malnutrition would go together,” said Sridhar Dharmapuri, FAO author for the report published on Tuesday, explaining the situation.

Unhealthy diets and inadequate eating are also compromising future health and productivity, as they cause children to be stunted or wasted and more susceptible to disease. The report says that almost a quarter of children in Asia-Pacific are affected by stunting or small height for their age.

Some other details from the report:

— In Afghanistan, 70% of people face moderate or severe food insecurity due to the collapse of the economy after the Taliban seized power in August 2021, driving millions into poverty and hunger due to aid exterior stopped almost overnight.

— In Cambodia, half the population faces moderate or severe food insecurity.

— A third of women in Asia between the ages of 15 and 49 suffer from anemia, which causes fatigue and, in its most severe forms, can damage the lungs and heart.

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