The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to an estimated 828 million in 2021, according to a June 2022 report authored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the UN World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.
This number reflects an increase of 46 million people affected by hunger since the publication of the United Nations’ “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” 2020 report.
Since the global onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 150 million people have newly experienced hunger. Pre-pandemic, 8% of the world’s population lived in hunger.
In 2020, this rate rose to 9.3% of the world’s population. In 2021, the estimated percentage rose to 9.8%.
According to the press release published alongside the report, this increasing percentage “provides fresh evidence that the world is moving further away from its goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.”
Further measures of food insecurity confirm the report’s overall findings. In 2021, the report documents that 2.3 billion people (29.3% of the global population) were moderately to severely food insecure. This number has increased by 350 million people since 2019, before the global outbreak of COVID-19.
The report revealed a gendered difference in the proportion of world food insecurity. In 2021, 31.9% of the world’s women were moderately or severely food insecure, while 27.6% of men were moderately or severely food insecure.
Forty-five million children under the age of five were estimated to have suffered from wasting in 2021, which the report labeled as the “deadliest form of malnutrition.” An additional 149 million children under the age of five had stunted growth or development due the absence of vital nutrients in their diet.
Children in poor, rural areas were most likely to be affected by hunger.
Despite the United Nations’ goal to end world hunger by 2030, the report estimated that about 670 million people worldwide, 8% of the population, will continue to face hunger in 2030. This projection is identical to the proportion of the population that experienced world hunger in 2015, when the United Nations’ agenda to end world hunger was initially launched.
The report named global conflict, extreme climate events and economic disruption as factors that continue to negatively affect food supply chains worldwide. Wealth inequality exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic was also said to play a contributing role.
“Despite hopes that the world would emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 and food security would begin to improve, world hunger rose further in 2021,” the report said. “The increase in global hunger in 2021 reflects exacerbated inequalities across and within countries due to an unequal pattern of economic recovery among countries and unrecovered income losses among those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In the press release, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell wrote, “The unprecedented scale of the malnutrition crisis demands an unprecedented response. We must double our efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable children have access to nutritious, safe, and affordable diets – and services for the early prevention, detection and treatment of malnutrition.”
She continued, “With so many children’s lives and futures at stake, this is the time to step up our ambition for child nutrition – and we have no time to waste.”
The full report may be found here.