The number of people who suffer from hunger is continuously increasing, reaching in 2019 close to 690 million, 8.9% of the world population. This is what emerges from the report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World – SOFI just published by the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO), which defines malnutrition as the condition of those who, for a year, do not have access to sufficient food to meet the minimum daily energy requirement.
In the more than 250 pages of the document, the data that arouse optimism are very few: compared to the previous year *, individuals who did not have access to sufficient food increased by ten million; in five years, this number has grown by 60 million people, a population almost equivalent to a country like Italy.
Let’s turn the spotlight on Africa
The most dramatic situation, according to data published by FAO, concerns the African continent, where one out of five inhabitants goes hungry (about 250 million people, that is 19.1% of the total, which is more than double the percentage compared to global average).
“The serious food crisis facing Africa is the result of a series of factors that must be addressed immediately, without wasting time,” says Ugandan agronomist Edie Mukiibi, member of the executive committee of International Slow Food. “To do this, on the one hand, it is necessary to combat the social, economic and environmental injustices that cause poverty and suffering in many African communities, on the other, to promote a subsistence mechanism that supports small-scale local economies and the initiatives and innovations brought by women. and young farmers. In my view, this is the priority.”
Slow Food has long placed its commitment to Africa at the top of its agenda, launching the Gardens in Africa project in 2010, which has now seen 3334 in 35 countries on the continent. Today, Slow Food’s strategy for Africa is divided into a series of initiatives, ranging from promoting local consumption to education in schools, from protecting biodiversity (through the Ark of Taste and Slow Food Presidia) to enhancing the local gastronomies, to campaigns on some problematic issues that have always been at the center of our commitment, such as GMOs, land grabbing and sustainable fishing.
Returning to the FAO report, time series reveal that in the past five years, the number of people suffering from undernutrition in Africa has grown by one and a half percentage points. The projections for 2030 are even more dramatic: if the trend continues, 25.7% of people living in Africa (433 million individuals out of the total population estimated in ten years, about 1 billion and 600 million) will be in the condition of not having enough food to ensure a normal, active and healthy life.
Looking back to today’s situation, and looking at the data in absolute terms, Asia is the region of the world where most of the malnourished people live (381 million, but with an 8.3% rate compared to the inhabitants, lower than the world average which is 8.9%). The explanation for this apparent contradiction lies in the fact that most of the population on Earth lives in Asia.
Covid-19 and world hunger: another hundred million individuals at risk
However, none of these takes into account the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic: the data collected by FAO refer in fact to 2019, before the global diffusion of SARS-CoV-2. In short, the numbers show the situation prior to the pandemic. According to the UN, the health crisis that erupted in recent months is destined to aggravate the situation, risking to bring tens of millions of individuals on the abyss of chronic hunger, with estimates that fluctuate between 83 and 132 million people, depending on future economic scenarios.
Malnutrition is not the only indicator taken into consideration by the authors of the report, it also speaks of food insecurity, a broader concept that includes those cases in which you are not sure of being able to find food. Adding up different levels of food insecurity from serious insecurity (750 million) to moderate insecurity, the people who in 2019 did not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food are two billion, just under 30% of the total.
Certainly, at this rate, the Zero Hunger Objective (i.e. the plan launched in 2015 by the World Food Program with the ambition to put an end to food insecurity by 2030) cannot be achieved. Indeed, if the current trend continues, in 2030 the number of undernourished people could exceed 840 million that is 9.8% of the population estimated to live on the planet within ten years.
In the context outlined by the UN report, serious geographical inequalities once again emerge. The figure regarding children under five is emblematic: on the one hand the frightening figure of malnourished children (144 million, 21.3% of the total worldwide), on the other those who are overweight (more than 38 million, the 5.6%).
Central is the issue of food quality, and not just access to food: the report states that “food insecurity can worsen the quality of the food eaten and, consequently, increase the risk of various forms of malnutrition, both undernutrition and obesity.”