New 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Publication features Climate resilience as key to face hunger and malnutrition

New 2018 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Publication features Climate resilience as key to face hunger and malnutrition

September 2018 - For the third year in a row, UN agencies observe a raise in world hunger. The newly published findings of the “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” estimate, the number of undernourished people to be increased up to 821 million in 2017, now affecting approximately one out of every nine people in the world. While in the year before the report pinpointed conflict and violence in several parts of the world as one of the main drivers of hunger and food insecurity, new evidence in this year’s report highlights that beside conflicts, key forces behind the recent rise in global hunger are going back to climate variability and an increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather and climate events.

In general, the findings indicate that nearly 151 million children were affected by stunting in 2017. Wasting thereby continuous to affect over 50 million of these children which are thus at an increased risk of morbidity and mortality. In contrast, over 38 million children are overweight and approximately 672 million adults, every eight adult, is obese. Food insecurity contributes to both undernutrition as well as overweight and obesity, especially because undernutrition in childhood often leads to obesity in adulthood.

Impact of a Changing Climate on Food Security & Nutrition

Climate variability and high exposure to complex, frequent and intense extreme weather and climate events are thereby threatening to erode and even reverse the gains already made in the fight against hunger and malnutrition. The number of extreme climate-related disasters, including extreme heats, droughts, floods and storms, has doubled since the early 1990s, with an average of 213 of these events occurring every year during the period of 1990–2016. The agricultural sector is especially prone towards these increasing risks. While losses due to climate variability and extreme weather events harm the agricultural productivity and contribute to shortfalls in food availability, knock-on effects causing food price hikes and income losses that reduce people’s access to and worsen the possibility of the utilisation of food. In addition, nutrition is highly susceptible to changes in climate. This results in an impaired nutrient quality and dietary diversity, negative impacts on water and sanitation quality, effects on patterns of health risks and disease, as well as changes in maternal and child care as well as breastfeeding.

Floods thereby, cause more climate-related disasters globally than any other extreme climate event, with flood-related disasters seeing the highest increase – 65 percent – in occurrence over the last 25 years. In addition, several countries – notably in Africa, Central America and Southeast Asia –experienced droughts. If a drought is severe and widespread enough, it can potentially affect national food availability and access, as well as nutrition, thus magnifying the prevalence of undernourishment nationally. Drought, in particular, causes more than 80 percent of the total damage and losses in agriculture, especially for the livestock and crop production sub-sectors.

Climate variability is in addition already negatively undermining production of major crops in tropical regions and, without adaptation and risk reduction measures, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme. The nature of rainy seasons is changing, especially the timing of seasonal climate events. Within-season changes may not register as extreme climate events but rather are aspects of climate variability that affect the growth of crops and the availability of pasture for livestock, with potentially significant implications for food security and nutrition.

While hunger is on the rise, it is equally alarming that the number of people facing crisis-level food insecurity continues to increase. In 2017, almost 124 million people across 51 countries and territories faced “crisis” levels of acute food insecurity or worse, requiring immediate emergency action to safeguard their lives and preserve their livelihoods. This represents an increase compared to 2015 and 2016, when 80 and 108 million people, respectively, faced crisis levels. Where conflict and climate shocks occur together, the impact on acute food insecurity is more severe. In 2017, 14 out of the 34 food-crisis countries experienced the double impact of both conflict and climate shocks, which led to significant increases in the severity of acute food insecurity.

Towards Climate Resilience

Addressing changing climate variability and extremes and their impact on agricultural livelihoods, food security and nutrition thus requires a focus on strengthening climate resilience. Efforts must be increased to develop context-specific interventions that aim at anticipating, absorbing, adapting and transforming to the effects of climate variability and extremes to build the resilience of livelihoods, food systems and nutrition to climatic shocks and stresses. Besides focussing on the agricultural sector, scaled-up climate actions across other sectors are also urgently needed to strengthen the resilience of these livelihoods and food systems. Such actions should take place through integrated disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation policies, programmes and practices with blending from short-, medium- and long-term funding.

The implementation of climate resilience policies, programmes and practices means adopting and refitting tools and interventions such as: risk monitoring and early warning systems; emergency preparedness and response; vulnerability reduction measures; shock-responsive social protection, risk transfers and forecast-based financing; and strong risk governance structures in the environment–food–health system nexus. Climate resilience solutions require increased partnerships, enhanced risk management capacities and multi-year, predictable large-scale funding of disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaption policies, programmes and practices.

The UN Climate Resilience Initiative contributes to address these issues on the global policy arenas and at local levels by fostering greater coherence of risk-informed policies, programmes and practices within and across sectors which are essential for food security and nutrition of present and future generations.

About the Series

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is an annual flagship report jointly prepared by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to inform on progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and to provide in-depth analysis on key challenges for achieving this goal in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The report targets a wide audience, including policy-makers, international organizations, academic institutions and the general public.

The Report is freely accessible in all 5 UN languages under: http://www.fao.org/state-of-food-security-nutrition

Yassamin AnsariComment