In May of 2015 the United Nations commended the news that the number of hungry people in the world had dropped to 795 million, 216 million fewer than in 1990-1992.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was hoping the downward trend would continue, but it appears that more people are now hungry in 2017.
The number is higher mostly because of food shortfalls in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, told participants at the organization’s biennial conference in early July, that additional efforts are necessary to respond to the crisis.
“Strong political commitment to eradicate hunger is fundamental but it is not enough,” he said at the Rome conference.
“Hunger will only be defeated if countries translate their pledges into action, especially at national and local levels.”
Graziano da Silva didn’t share data on how many people are now hungry, compared to 2015. That information will be released in a couple of months.
The backslide is depressing news because from 1990 to 2015, roughly a generation, the percentage of undernourished people declined significantly.
In 1990-92 about 23.3 percent of the world was undernourished, based on FAO data.
By 2015 the percentage was 12.9 percent.
South Sudan, which achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, is an example of a country where hunger is on the rise.
The country has been entrenched in a civil war since 2013. This February, the UN said the war and a collapsing economy was causing a famine in parts of South Sudan
Relief Web, which reports on crisis and disasters, said in September of 2015 that 3.9 million people in South Sudan, nearly one in three, were “severely food insecure.”
By July of 2016 the number of severely food insecure people had rise to 4.8 million and was expected to hit five million in 2017.
Refugees from the South Sudan war have relocated to nearby countries, which are also coping with food shortages.
“More than 20 million people in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen are experiencing famine or are at risk,” the UN Refugee Agency said in April. “The regions in which these countries sit, including the Lake Chad basin, Great Lakes, East, Horn of Africa and Yemen together host well over four million refugees and asylum seekers.”
Graziano da Silva said peace is key to eradicating hunger in the region. But the rest of the world cannot sit idle and wait for peace.
“It is extremely important to ensure that these people have the conditions to continue producing their own food. Vulnerable rural people cannot be left behind, especially youth and women.”
Delegates to the FAO meeting will discuss potential responses to the African famine, from July 3-8 in Rome.