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Hunger in Africa continues to rise according to new UN report

  |   SUN Country Network

Hunger in Africa continues to rise after many years of decline, threatening the continent’s hunger eradication efforts to meet the Malabo Goals 2025 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2). New data presented in the joint UN report, the Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition indicates that 237 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering from chronic undernutrition, derailing the gains made in the past years.

The report, jointly written by the Regional Office for Africa of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), shows that more people continue to suffer from undernourishment in Africa than in any other region – evidence suggests that in 2017, 20 per cent of the African population was undernourished.

“The worsening trend in Africa is due to difficult global economic and worsening environmental conditions and, in many countries, conflict and climate variability and extremes, sometimes combined. Economic growth slowed in 2016 due to weak commodity prices, in particular for oil and minerals. Food insecurity has worsened in countries affected by conflict, often exacerbated by drought or floods. For example, in Southern and Eastern Africa, many countries suffered from drought,” FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, and ECA Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe, said in their joint foreword of the report.

Of the 257 million hungry people in Africa, 237 million are in sub-Saharan Africa and 20 million in Northern Africa. The annual UN report indicates that compared to 2015, there were an additional 34.5 million more undernourished people in Africa, of which 32.6 million in sub-Saharan Africa and 1.9 million in Northern Africa. Nearly half of the increase is due to the rise in the number of undernourished people in Western Africa, while another third is from Eastern Africa.

At the regional level, the prevalence of stunting in children under five is falling, but only few countries are on track to meet the global nutrition target for stunting. The number of overweight children under five continues to rise and is particularly high in Northern and Southern Africa. According to the regional report, progress towards meeting the World Health Organization’s global nutrition targets is slow at the continental level.

In many countries, notably in Eastern and Southern Africa, adverse climatic conditions due to El Niño led to a decline in agricultural production and soaring staple food prices. The economic and climatic situation has improved in 2017, but some countries continue to be affected by drought or poor rainfall.

 

Greater efforts and collaboration needed to achieve SDG 2

The report reveals that more efforts are needed to achieve SDG2 and the global nutrition targets amidst the important challenges faced by the continent, such as tackling youth employment and climate change. Agriculture and the rural sector must play a key role in creating decent jobs for the 10 to 12 million youths that join the labour market each year. Another present and growing threat to food security and nutrition in Africa, particularly to countries relying heavily on agriculture, is climate change. The effects of climate change, reduced precipitation and higher temperatures negatively influence the yields of staple food crops.

At the same time, there are significant opportunities for agriculture in developing intra-African trade, harnessing remittances for development, and investing in youth. Remittances from international and internal migration play an important role in reducing poverty and hunger as well as stimulating productive investments. International remittances amount to nearly USD 70 billion, about three percent of Africa’s GDP, and present an opportunity for national development that governments should work on to strengthen.

The signing of the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement provides an opportunity to accelerate growth and sustainable development by increasing trade, including trade in agricultural products. Although agricultural intra-African exports rose from USD 2 billion in 2000 to USD 13.7 billion in 2013, they remain relatively modest and often informal. The report highlights that opening trade of food also carries risks to consumer and producer welfare, and governments should avoid using trade policy for multiple objectives but rather combine trade reform with additional instruments, such as safety nets and risk-mitigating programmes, to achieve food security and nutrition goals.

Key facts and figures

  • Number of hungry people in Africa: 257 million or 1 in every 5 people
  • Children under five affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 59 million (30.3 per cent)
  • Children under five affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 13.8 million (7.1 per cent)
  • Children under five who are overweight (high weight-for-height): 9.7 million (5 per cent)
  • Percentage of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 38 per cent
  • Percentage of infants aged below 6 months who were exclusively breastfed: 43.5 per cent
  • Percentage of adults who are obese: 11.8 per cent

Related information

• Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition – English
• New UN report reveals that hunger in Africa continues to rise – FAO News

 

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