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Undernourishment and severe food insecurity climb

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022

This report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations sets out the latest statistics on food security around the world, analyses how government policies are affecting food and agriculture, and sets out options for repurposing government support to improve the affordability of healthy diets. It finds that hunger has continued to worsen, with around 150 million more people affected by hunger in 2021 compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

In 2021, between 702 and 828 million people are estimated to have been affected by hunger, with the prevalence of undernutrition being greatest in Africa (20.2%) and lowest in Northern America and Europe (less than 2.5%). 

During 2021, global levels of moderate or severe food insecurity (29.5%) remained similar to those of 2020 (29.3%). Severe food insecurity increased from 10.9% in 2020 to 11.7% in 2021. Across every region of the world, food insecurity is more prevalent among women than among men.

In 2020, around 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet. This figure is 112 million more than in 2019, primarily driven by increases in food insecurity in Asia. The costs of healthy diets have increased between 2019 and 2020, ranging from 2.5% in Africa to 4.0% in Asia.

Global government support for food and agriculture has averaged around US$630 billion per year between 2013 and 2018, mostly targeted at staple foods (e.g. rice, sugar), dairy and other protein-rich foods (e.g. various types of meat). Fruit and vegetable producers receive less support and are even penalised in some low-income countries.

The report argues that subsidies must be redirected towards making healthy diets more affordable. It sets out the effects of several policy scenarios on undernourishment, affordability of healthy diets, poverty, farm income, agricultural production and greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Read the full report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, here. See also the TABLE explainer What is food security?

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