World hunger levels do not merely represent the amount of food a country has available. This level lends to the disparity of class, employment and education levels in a country. For those who find access to food and consume more than others, their energy for sustained work propels them above those with lower levels of caloric distribution. This begins the procession of beneficial livelihoods that are affordable for those who live without hunger.
Not only is hunger a contributing factor to living conditions, but in many cases, living conditions can also cause hunger. In 2010 for example, the number of undernourished people in the world declined for the first time in 15 years. The decline, according to the Food and Agriculture Association, was largely attributed to the “favorable economic environment in 2010—particularly in developing countries—and the fall in both international and domestic food prices since 2008.”
In 2017, the global hunger level rose for the first time in over a decade. In 2016, the world Prevalence of Undernourishment was 10.8 percent, continuing a consistent decline since 2003. The 2017 report published by the UN indicates that the world Prevalence of Undernourishment has risen to 11 percent.
“On September 15th, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) published the first-ever consolidated U.N. report on progress towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030.”
Under the U.N. Sustainable Development goals (SDG’s) these five U.N. organizations have pronounced to end hunger, promote sustainable development and achieve food security and improved nutrition by 2030.
The 2017 Global Report on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World illustrates some of the biggest drivers of world hunger: armed conflict and natural disasters. “Of the 815 million chronically food-insecure and malnourished people in the world, the vast majority—489 million—live in countries affected by conflict.”
Armed conflict contributed to the onset of food insecurity in countries like Syria, South Sudan and Lebanon in 2017. In Syria, a six-year civil war has contributed to the onset of a record low agricultural production. An 85 percent poverty rate in 2016, along with the exodus of an estimated 4.8 million refugees since 2011, aggregates the lack of agricultural production and food insecurity in Syria.
South Sudan has seen inflation due to shortages, currency devaluation and high transportation costs as a result of the ongoing conflict. Lebanon is an example of how the spillover effect of conflicts in other countries contributes to an economic slowdown. The conflict in Syria has “disrupted trade routes, and declined confidence among investors and consumers” in Lebanon, which has “absorbed more than 1.5 million refugees.” Political crises thus contribute to increases in world hunger.
Natural disasters such as El-Niño-driven drought and other climate shocks lead to unfavorable agriculture conditions and food scarcity in countries like Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Haiti. In Southern Africa, where countries were experiencing high levels of poverty and structural insecurity, El Niño’s dry conditions induced crop losses and reduced access to food.
The combination of insecurities in these countries prompted critical food insecurity in Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. In 2015, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and coupled with El Niño induced drought to create unfavorable cropping conditions that left “1.6 million…in need of food assistance.” World hunger thus increases due to natural disasters.
The rise of undernourished people in the world in 2017 brings attention to the multi-dimensional effects of conflict in developing nations. Armed conflict coupled with unfavorable weather conditions have risen the rate of Prevalence of Undernourishment and brought multiple nations to critical food insecurity.
The 2017 report looks at Uganda as an example of how resolving conflict can decrease food insecurity. Two decades of conflict lead to reliance on international food assistance in Uganda. Since 2011, after the end of the conflict, Uganda has increased food security and no longer requires assistance. Steps like the ones Uganda has made continue to inspire work towards reducing world hunger.
– Eliza Gresh