Global hunger numbers rose to as many as 828 million in 2021: UN report
Almost 828 million were affected by hunger globally in 2021, a new United Nations report found, highlighting fresh evidence that the world is moving backwards in its fight to end hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.
The new report entitled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) found that the number of people suffering from hunger globally increased by almost 46 million since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the global economy, and 150 million more since 2019.
The report outlined updates on the global state of food security and nutrition, the latest estimates of the cost and affordability of a healthy diet, and the ways in which governments can repurpose their current support to the agricultural industry and make healthy food cheaper.
Approximately 2.3 billion people (29.3 percent) were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 – 350 million more compared to before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 924 million people faced food insecurity at severe levels, accounting for an increase of 207 million in just two years.
Speaking at the SOFI launch in New York on Thursday, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that the report’s figures were a “shocking report card of our efforts to end hunger.”
“These are people whose lives, livelihoods and prospects for a fruitful and dignified life are being crippled, with their future eroded and potential aspirations held back,” she added.
Almost 3.1 billion could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, up 112 million from the year before the pandemic, reflecting the economic impacts of the pandemic, such as inflation, and the measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Particularly worrying was the fact that an estimated 45 million children under the age of five were suffering from wasting – the deadliest form of malnutrition which involves changes in the way one’s body uses proteins, carbohydrates and fat, leading to involuntary weight loss and muscle mass. Wasting increases the risk of death by up to 12 times, the UN said.
“They need our crosscutting resolve. The evidence presented in this report is compelling as it is outrageous when we see that children in rural settings and poorer households, whose mothers received no formal education, were even more vulnerable to stunting and wasting,” Mohammed said.
The global organization also reported that another 149 million children under the age of five had stunted growth and development due to the lack of essential nutrients in their diet, while 39 million were reported to be overweight.
“These are depressing figures for humanity,” said President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development Gilbert Houngbo.
“We continue to move away from our goal of ending hunger by 2030. The ripple effects of the global food crisis will most likely worsen the outcome again next year. We need a more intense approach to end hunger and IFAD stands ready to do its part by scaling up its operations and impact.”
Ukraine war, climate change are major drivers
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24 this year, caused immense disruption to the supply of staple cereals, oilseeds, and fertilizer from both nations and global supply chains, the report stated.
This disruption has led to soaring food prices and worsened the state of food insecurity.
Extreme climate events, within the context of this disruption during the Ukraine war, has only made matters worse in low-income countries.
“This report repeatedly highlights the intensification of these major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition: Conflict, climate extremes, and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities,” the heads of the five UN agencies involved in the report wrote.
“The issue at stake is not whether adversities will continue to occur or not, but how we must take bolder action to build resilience against future shocks.”
World Food Program chief David Beasley said the “real danger” was that these figures were likely to increase “in the months ahead,” resulting in: “Global destabilization, starvation, and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe.”
The report urged governments to take immediate action, suggesting they repurpose the resources being used to incentivize production, supply, and consumption of nutritious foods in order to make healthy foods more affordable and to reduce trade barriers to help lower the price of nutritious foods.
Massive ship tips over, injuring 25 people
A large ship tipped over while dry-docked in Scotland, injuring 25 people on Wednesday, emergency workers said.
Police and emergency services were called to the Imperial Dock in Edinburgh after receiving reports that a ship had become dislodged from its holding, Associated Press reported.
The Scottish Ambulance Service said 15 people were taken to the hospital, while 10 others were treated and discharged at the scene. Local police urged the public to avoid the area to allow access for emergency services.
Photos from the scene showed the ship leaning to the side at a 45-degree angle. Adam McVey, a local official, tweeted that it became dislodged due to strong winds.
The 76-meter long vessel, named the Petrel, was a research vessel previously bought and outfitted by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The Petrel is equipped with deep-sea exploration technology and has led several high-profile missions to locate historic shipwrecks, including the discovery of the USS Indianapolis in 2017 in the Philippine Sea.
The BBC reported the ship had been moored since 2020 due to challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thailand dissolves parliament for crunch election in May
Thailand dissolved its parliament on Monday to clear the way for an election in May, a vote set to reignite a long-running power struggle between a military-backed establishment and a political movement that has dominated elections for two decades, Reuters reported.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn endorsed a decree to dissolve parliament, according to an announcement in the Royal Gazette on Monday, ahead of an election that must be held within 45 to 60 days.
No date has been announced, but two sources with knowledge of the matter earlier on Monday told Reuters the vote would be on May 14, read the report.
“This is a return of political decision-making power to the people swiftly to continue democratic government with the King as head of state,” said the decree published on Monday.
The election broadly pits the billionaire Shinawatra family and its business allies against parties and politicians close to their rivals among the royalist military and old money conservatives.
With populist policies aimed at Thailand’s working classes, parties controlled by the Shinawatras have won every election since 2001, including twice in landslides, but three of its governments were removed in military coups or by court rulings.
According to Reuters the May election will choose members of parliament, which together with an appointed Senate will choose a prime minister by the end of July, according to a timeline provided by the government.
The main opposition Pheu Thai party’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra is the frontrunner to be prime minister in opinion surveys, with her support jumping 10 points to 38.2% in a poll released at the weekend, more than twice the backing of her nearest contender.
Incumbent Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has been in power since his coup in 2014 against Paetongtarn’s aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra, has been trailing in polls and was third in the latest survey by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA).
Prayuth, 68, will continue to lead as head of a caretaker government and is expected to run again.
“I’m glad I’ve built something good, generated revenue for the country, built industry. There has been a lot of investment,” Prayuth said.
“You have to ask the people if they are satisfied or not … I have done a lot in the many years that have passed.”
The NIDA poll of 2,000 people also showed that 50% of respondents would choose candidates from Pheu Thai, read the report.
Srettha Thavisin, a property tycoon and senior Pheu Thai adviser who has been campaigning alongside Paetongtarn, said parliament’s dissolution was a “turning point” for Thailand.
“I would like to invite everyone to study policies, positions and ideologies of all parties to find the one for you that will make the country of your dreams come true, to move the nation forward and improve lives,” he said on Twitter.
Paetongtarn on Friday said she was confident of winning by a landslide, with the aim of averting any political manoeuvring against her party, read the report.
North Korea’s Kim calls for nuclear attack readiness against U.S., South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for the country to stand ready to conduct nuclear attacks at any time to deter war, accusing the U.S. and South Korea of expanding joint military drills involving American nuclear assets, state media KCNA said on Monday.
Kim’s remarks came as the isolated country conducted what KCNA called exercises aimed at bolstering its “war deterrence and nuclear counterattack capability” on Saturday and Sunday to send strong warnings against the allies, Reuters reported.
In the exercises, a ballistic missile equipped with a mock nuclear warhead flew 800 km (497 miles) before hitting a target at the altitude of 800 m (0.5 mile) under the scenario of a tactical nuclear attack, KCNA said.
Kim, who oversaw the test, said the exercises improved the military’s actual war capability and highlighted the need to ensure its readiness posture for any “immediate and overwhelming nuclear counterattack” through such drills.
“The present situation, in which the enemies are getting ever more pronounced in their moves for aggression against the DPRK, urgently requires the DPRK to bolster up its nuclear war deterrence exponentially,” KCNA quoted him as saying.
Kim was using the acronym of his country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, read the report.
“The nuclear force of the DPRK will strongly deter, control and manage the enemy’s reckless moves and provocations with its high war readiness, and carry out its important mission without hesitation in case of any unwanted situation,” he added.
KCNA photos showed Kim attended the test, again with his young daughter, as flames roar from the soaring missile before it hit the target.
South Korea and Japan reported a launch of a North Korean short-range ballistic missile off the east coast on Sunday, the latest in a series of missile tests in recent weeks.
North Korea has reacted furiously to South Korea-U.S. combined military drills, calling them a rehearsal for invasion against it, Reuters reported.
The allies have been carrying out a multitude of their annual exercises since earlier this month, including air and sea drills on Sunday involving U.S. B-1B strategic bombers.
The U.S. and South Korea navies and marine corps are set to kick off their first large-scale Ssangyong amphibious landing exercises in five years on Monday for a two-week run until April 3.
Last month, the two countries staged tabletop exercises simulating North Korea’s nuclear attack amid South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s push for more confidence in U.S. extended deterrence – its military capability, especially nuclear forces, to deter attacks on its allies, read the report.
In another dispatch, KCNA said more than 1.4 million North Koreans have volunteered to join or re-enlist in the military to fight against Seoul and Washington, up from some 800,000 reported by a state newspaper just two days before.
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