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Goal 2: Zero Hunger

5 things you need to know about… Zero Hunger

From the impact of COVID-19 to the huge amount of food waste, here's the reality of world hunger

By Emma elms
13 MAY 2021

Access to safe, nutritious food is a vital part of the response to the pandemic, especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities, who are hardest hit by the health and economic crisis. Discover the facts behind Goal 2: Zero Hunger here...

1. We’re wasting precious food

Nearly 690 million people worldwide are hungry – that’s 8.9 per cent of the population, according to the latest UN study. In 2021 34 million people are teetering on the edge of famine and at risk of starvation.

Acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries, warns the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), who are calling for urgent action to avert the crisis. But despite the risk of famine, we throw away or waste a third of the food we produce every year, according to the UN.

Another study published last year, showed the average person wastes 500 calories’ worth of food a day. Without food waste, in fact, we could feed five people instead of four, the researchers found. It’s time to rethink how we produce and consume food. 

2. Asia and Africa are hardest hit

The largest number of undernourished people (500 million) live in Asia, according to a 2019 UN report, followed by Africa with 250 million people. In Eastern Africa nearly a third of the population is now undernourished (30.8 per cent). The rise is driven by a combination of factors including climate change, conflict and the economic downturn. Since 2011, almost half of the world’s countries experiencing rising hunger levels due to economic slowdowns or stagnation were in Africa.

Combined, Africa and Asia are worst hit by all forms of malnutrition, accounting for over nine out of ten of all ‘stunted’ (low height-for-age) children worldwide, as well as over nine in ten of all ‘wasted’ (low weight-for-age) children worldwide.

3. We also have an obesity crisis

An apparent contradiction, but alongside the issue of malnourishment, Africa and Asia are also home to nearly 75% of all overweight children worldwide, driven by the consumption of poor-quality, unhealthy diets.

Worldwide, obesity has nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016, according to the World Health Organisation. Figures from 2016 show more than 1.9 billion adults (39 per cent) were overweight and of these over 650 million (13%) were obese. Childhood obesity continues to be a global issue too, with over 340 million children and young people aged 5-19 worldwide being classed as overweight or obese in 2016.

4. The issue is becoming more urgent

The global population is expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, but at the moment two billion people worldwide don’t have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, states the UN'S Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

World Food Day founded by the FAO, called for ‘global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from the (COVID-19) crisis, and to make food systems more resilient and robust.’

There is still time to act. ‘Famine is never inevitable – with proper planning and coordination, it can be prevented and millions of lives can be saved,’ emphasises the World Food Programme (WFP).

5. We need to diversify our food supply

Amazingly, only nine plant species account for 66 per cent of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30,000 edible plants in the world, according to the FAO

‘Our future food systems need to provide affordable and healthy diets for all and decent livelihoods for food system workers, while preserving natural resources and biodiversity and tackling challenges such as climate change,’ explains the FAO. 

Now more than ever, it's vital that we grow a variety of food to nourish people, sustain our precious planet and continue to fight the global pandemic.

Disclaimer: WFP does not endorse any product or service