by Eric J. Lyman
ROME, July 15 (Xinhua) -- More than 820 million people worldwide were undernourished last year, the third consecutive year of slight increase after decades of decline, according to a report presented on Monday by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to journalists, United Nations officials and stakeholders at IFAD's headquarters here.
The 239-page "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World" report, released annually, is a comprehensive look at the state of hunger worldwide.
The report is produced by IFAD along with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), both based in Rome, as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
According to the report, the number of hungry people in the world is increasing more or less in step with the global population growth. This means the figure of 820 million hungry people last year represents a slight increase compared to 2017, but in relative terms, the number of undernourished people in the world has held steady at just under 11 percent, more or less consistent in percentage terms since 2015. Before that, the report said, the number had steadily decreased in percentage terms.
"We can no longer wait to transform global, national and local food systems," IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo told Xinhua via email. "This report comes at a time when the calls are growing for a radical transformation of food systems."
Houngbo said the world needs food systems that are "sustainable, nutritious, inclusive and efficient."
The report said Africa is hardest hit by under-nourishment, with nearly 20 percent of the population suffering from hunger. In western Asia, hunger is on the rise, with more than 12 percent of the population impacted. Hunger is also becoming more common in Latin America and the Caribbean, where nearly 7 percent of the population is affected.
More than 2 billion people live without sufficient access to safe and nutritious food. That includes around 8 percent of the population in north America and Europe, the most economically developed parts of the world, noted the reported.
It added that the number of babies with unhealthily low birthweight and the level of obesity worldwide are also on the rise.
It cited poor economic development, climate change and violence as the main culprits behind the trends.
The cheapest food options in many countries, including large economies in transition like Brazil, China and India, contain increasingly high levels of fats and sugars, making it harder for people with low incomes to eat a healthy diet, it pointed out.
The report said the rising number of hungry people in the world "underscores the immense challenge of achieving the Zero Hunger target by 2030," a reference to one of the main planks from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals agreed to in 2015. The Zero Hunger provision includes efforts to "end hunger, eliminate malnutrition (and) to build inclusive and sustainable food systems." Enditem