After a decade of progress made to cut the number of undernourished people on Earth, global hunger appears to be rising again.
The primary driver of growing hunger is the increase of conflicts around the world, many of which have been compounded by climate change, according to the 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition report published by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on Sep. 15.
Among the 815 million undernourished people—representing more than one in 10 people alive today—more than 489 million live in parts of the world afflicted by armed conflicts. Many of these are regions that have suffered years of violence, including the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes of Africa, and the parts of the Middle East affected by the Syrian War. Countries outside these regions that have faced similar ongoing conflict include South Sudan, Yemen, Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.
What’s worrying is that some of these conflicts have been made worse because of increased droughts and floods linked to the El Niño phenomenon and climate-related shocks. The UN report warns that as climate change worsens, the goal to end hunger by 2030 will become more and more difficult to attain.
As with any problem that affects hundreds of millions of people spread across all parts of the world, there is no one solution to chronic undernourishment. The best we can do is learn from the successes of the past. As a case study, the recent UN report highlights northern Uganda, which had been devastated by armed conflicts in the 1990s and 2000s. Investment in conflict resolution and recovery—through community development and improvements in agricultural practice—have led to a dramatic improvement in economic and food security; by 2011, many areas in the northern part of the country, which had been a conflict zone for two decades, had become sustainable and needed no food aid.