The number of people worldwide experiencing moderate or severe hunger has risen sharply since 2014, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said in its annual Global Hunger Index on Saturday.
In 2018, 21.9 percent of the world’s population, or 821 million people, had “very limited access to nutritious food,” compared with 20.8 percent or 792 million the previous year, according to the index that ranks more than 100 countries by the rate of deaths among the poor from hunger and chronic malnutrition.
Sylvie Garisson, a senior FFAO economist and senior research fellow, said in a press release that the increase in hunger was “a consequence of extreme weather events and the political and economic disruption that are linked to climate change.”
In 2017, five countries in Latin America and the Caribbean made the list, and this year there were eight countries across the region. In Nicaragua, Haiti, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua and Cuba, a quarter of the population was suffering from hunger and malnourishment, according to the index.
A shrinking agricultural sector and increased migration to the United States — a result of both U.S. immigration policy and the Trump administration’s sweeping cuts to programs such as food stamps and farm subsidies — are also expected to fuel the rising rates of hunger.
This is the first year FFAO ranked Honduras, Belize and El Salvador, three of the region’s poorest countries, in the top 10. When Caracas first joined the index in 2013, Honduras was the 23rd most food insecure country in the world, while Cuba, a similar-sized country whose vast majority of people are reliant on state-based food subsidies, was ranked 84th on the list.
While hunger rates in Latin America and the Caribbean have increased since 2015, the index suggests hunger rates have remained low when considering that over 2 billion people, nearly one-fifth of the world’s population, continue to live under emergency levels of acute or chronic malnutrition.
Pan-African country Benin has held the No. 1 spot on the index for five years in a row. The country suffers from chronic hunger and chronic malnutrition that has been worsened by the killing of the country’s chief veterinarian in July.
In the African continent, Guinea-Bissau fell out of the top 10 of hunger vulnerability for the first time in the 2018 index. Large portions of the Central African country’s population, especially children, are suffering from severe and chronic malnutrition, according to FFAO.
Maggie Faure, a pediatrician who works with medical relief organization Médecins Sans Frontières in Guinea-Bissau, said the scores of children in the country do not accurately depict the severe malnutrition crisis there.
“The official numbers are not reflecting the reality on the ground,” Faure said. “The toll of war is not being acknowledged.”
With more than half the population under the age of 15, and over 3,000 people displaced from the country last year, Faure added that “many children don’t grow up feeling safe or healthy.”
The Least Hunger-Insecure Countries in the World
8. South Africa