World hunger is increasing, and violent conflicts around the globe and climate change have been the primary causes for the worsening food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations (UN). The number of undernourished people across the world has increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, which accounts for about 11 percent of total world population, the report says.

The 132-page report titled, “The State Of Food Security And Nutrition In The World Building Resilience For Peace And Food Security,” underlines a significant increase in global hunger for the first time in more than a decade.

"Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature," the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization said in their joint foreword to the report that was released Friday. "This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end.”

According to the report, the number of undernourished people is the highest in Asia (520 million) followed by Africa (243 million). In Latin America and the Caribbean, about 42 million people do not get sufficient food to eat. Further, of the 815 million undernourished people across the globe, 489 million people were found in conflict-affected areas. Moreover, of the total 155 million stunted children in the world, 120 million children were from conflict regions, the report highlights.

The latest UN findings of the world hunger highlight the challenges in working towards a world without food insecurity and malnourishment — an aim set by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, spearheaded by the UN, that calls on countries to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030.

While famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months earlier this year, there is a high risk that it could reoccur there as well as appear in other conflict-affected regions — northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen.

“Conflict and civil war are common denominators in all these cases, as they are in most other countries facing food crises,” the report states.

Also, the FAO has identified 19 countries with protracted crisis and all of these 19 countries are affected by conflict. The living conditions here are compounded by adverse climatic events, such as prolonged droughts, that severely affect food production and livelihoods.

Violence in the conflict regions has led to the displacement of millions of people, the report highlights, causing and protracting food insecurity in host communities. More than 6 million people were internally displaced due to the civil war in the Syrian Arab Republic, while another 5 million people were compelled to flee to neighboring countries. In 2016, over 2 billion people were living in countries affected by the conflict.

For these countries, achieving zero hunger has become a far dream. Shedding further light, the report explains, “Conflict can cause deep economic recession, drive up inflation, disrupt employment and erode finances for social protection and health care, to the detriment of the availability and access of food in markets and so damaging health and nutrition. It undermines resilience and often forces individuals and households to engage in increasingly destructive and irreversible coping strategies that threaten their future livelihoods, food security, and nutrition.”

Between 1990 and 2015, countries with a protracted crisis only managed to reduce the share of their undernourished populations by 26 percent.

In another report by the FAO, “The Global Report on Food Crises 2017,” it was revealed that more than 15.3 million people were displaced by six of the worst food crises triggered by conflict in 2016. Maximum number of people affected due to food insecurity as a result of violence were reported in Yemen (17 million), followed by Syria (7.0 million), South Sudan (4.9 million), Somalia (2.9 million), northeast Nigeria (4.7 million), Burundi (2.3 million) and Central African Republic (2 million). 

In an essay published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), along with Global Hunger Index 2015, it was revealed how food insecurity in the violence-hit areas also claimed lives.

“Of the estimated 780,000 people who died worldwide from violence and its immediate effects each year between 2004 and 2009, 66 percent were killed in non-conflict settings (mainly due to crimes), 27 percent died from hunger and disease due to conflict, and just 7 percent died as a direct consequence of war,” the essay, “Armed conflict and the challenge of hunger: Is an end in sight,” read.

Drawing the link between hunger and armed conflict, the essay stated a very pertinent point: “Today’s famines are ‘complex humanitarian emergencies,’ caused mostly by armed conflict and exacerbated by natural disasters or international policies (Keen 2008).”

Referring to the essay, the IFPRI, an international agricultural research center, said that conflict may not lead to extreme hunger — that is famine — if the humanitarian responses in the world are effective.