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Earth Today| Climate resilience key to halting hunger: Part I

Published:Wednesday | September 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Jose Graziano da Silva


The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) and UN partner agencies recently published the 2018 edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World.

For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger. The absolute number of undernourished people has increased to nearly 821 million in 2017 from around 804 million in 2016. These are the same levels as almost a decade ago. We are, therefore, witnessing a worrisome erosion and reversal in the gains made in ending hunger. These findings underscore the need for bolder action.

Levels of child stunting remain unacceptably high. In 2017, nearly 151 million children under five years old - or 22 per cent - were affected by stunting. Furthermore, wasting continues to affect over 51 million children under five years old.

The main cause of hunger in the world is still conflict. In fact, the failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in violence, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, and, therefore, the efforts to fight hunger must go hand in hand with those to sustain peace. The report also shows that the impacts of climate change, especially prolonged droughts, constitute a key driver behind the recent continued rise in global hunger.




In 2017, climate shocks were a key factor in the food crises in 34 out of the 51 countries facing such crises. Temperatures are increasing and becoming more variable. Very hot days are becoming more frequent, and the hottest days are becoming hotter.

We are experiencing increased variability in rainfall, and the timing, length and intensify of rainy seasons is also changing. The number of extreme climate-related disasters, including extreme heat, droughts, floods and storms, has doubled since the early 1990s, which means that we now witness on average 213 medium and large catastrophic events every year.

The world's 2.5 billion small-scale farmers, herders, fishers and forest-dependent people, who derive their food and income from renewable natural resources, are most affected by climate variability and extremes. The strongest direct impacts are felt on food availability, given the sensitivity of agriculture to climate and the primary role of the sector as a source of food and livelihood for the rural poor.

Read next week's Earth Today for the conclusion of this article.

Jose Graziano da Silva is director-general for of Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. You can send comments to