Global Hunger Increases: COVID-19, Conflict, Climate Disasters Undermine Progress Towards SDG2 (Zero Hunger)
By admin July 28, 2021

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Goal 2: Zero hunger | The Global Goals

Global Hunger Increases under COVID-19, Conflict, Climate Disasters

The Sustainable Development Goal 2 – Zero Hunger aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030. Global progress towards achieving Zero Hunger has been steady over the last few years — with some great achievements such as the proportion of the global population who are undernourished has decreased from 15% in 2000-2002 to 8.9% in 2017-2019. However, global hunger has been escalating since last year. Oxfam reported in early July that eleven individuals are likely to die from starvation and malnutrition per minute. This number is even higher than COVID-19’s current worldwide mortality rate of roughly seven persons per minute.

According to the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) by FAO, 155 million people are experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity all over the world, the number of which has increased by 20 million compared to last year’s statistics. The GRFC applies an analysis tool named Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and the Cadre Harmonisé (CH) which sets five different phases to measure, inform and react to food security situations (Figure 1).

Figure 1. IPC/CH Acute Food Insecurity Phase Description and Response Objectives

Source: FAO, 2021 Global Report on Food Crises.


The geographical distribution of hunger is not balanced. The report finds that over 60% of 155 million people who are experiencing food crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) were from the following 10 countries or territories: Democratic Republic of the Congo (21.8M), Yemen (13.5M), Afghanistan (13.2M), Syrian Arab Republic (12.4M), Sudan (9.6M), northern Nigeria (9.2M), Ethiopia (8.6M), South Sudan (6.5M), Zimbabwe (4.3M) and Haiti (4.1M).

The situation is particularly alarming for children. According to joint estimates by UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank Group in May, 2021, there are 149.2 million children under the age of 5 years were stunted and 45.4 million wasted. The number of children with stunting, a sign of chronic undernutrition, is declining in all regions except Africa. The number of stunted children in Africa under 5 years old increased by 12.9% (from 54.4 million to 61.4 million) from 2000 to 2020. By subregion, the increases were more evident in Western Africa and Middle Africa.


Figure 2. Trends in the number (millions) of children under 5 affected by stunting, by United Nations region/sub-region, 2000 and 2020

Source: UNICEF, WHO, World Bank Group Joint Malnutrition Estimates, 2021 edition.


The Key Drivers of Global Hunger since 2020

Often co-existing, the major causes of recent hunger are conflict, economic downturns aggravated by Covid-19, and climate change. According the 2021 Global Report on Food Crises, about two-thirds of 155 million people are suffering from hunger mainly because of war and conflict. Furthermore, economic shocks and extreme weather account primarily for the starving of over a half million people in 32 countries or territories.  The pandemic led to mass unemployment, household income shocks, interruptions of production and supply chain. Against this challenging backdrop, the world also witnessed climate-related disasters and disrupted food production, which raised global food prices by 40%. This unprecedented rise, which is the highest in the past decade, further restricted the capacity to purchase sufficient food.


Figure 3. Numbers of people in food crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) by primary driver in 2020

Source: FAO, 2021 Global Report on Food Crises.


Working towards SDG2 – Zero Hunger

As it stands right now, the global population is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. Taking the example of improving the situation of stunting and wasting amongst children, among countries where assessments are possible, only one-third are on track towards reducing the number of stunted children. About half are on track towards improving wasting. Moreover, if the current global hunger trends continued, the world would not achieve the Zero Hunger Goal by 2030, and the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million.


Figure 4. Progress towards improving the situation of children with stunting and wasting.

Source: UNICEF, WHO, World Bank Group Joint Malnutrition Estimates, 2021 edition.


A 2020 study finds that it would cost $330bn to end global hunger by 2030. Aid is important. However, aid itself cannot become the panacea. To end hunger, it is important to make global collaborative efforts in enhancing regional security and peace mechanism, improving aid effectiveness, encouraging better agricultural investments, designing innovative nutrition programmes, and boosting climate-resilient crops and sustainable agriculture.


Helpful Links:

Ahmed, Kaamil. “Ending World Hunger by 2030 Would Cost $330bn, Study Finds.” The Guardian, 15 Oct. 2020,

“Global Report on Food Crises 2021.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, May 2021,

“The Hunger Virus Multiplies: Deadly Recipe of Conflict, Covid-19 and Climate Accelerate World Hunger.” Oxfam International, 9 July 2021,

“UNICEF/WHO/The World Bank Group Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates: Levels and Trends in Child Malnutrition, Key Findings of the 2021 Edition.” World Health Organization, 5 May 2021,


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Thanks for sharing !

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