World Set to Miss 2030 Hunger Eradication Target by 600 Million People
A woman shows how her maize ears have dried in the drought stricken garden. Due to droughts exacerbated by climate change, people living in the Mauritanian Sahel were at risk of food insecurity in 2012.

The world is on track to miss the United Nations’ target of eradicating hunger by 2030 by 600 million people, according to a flagship UN report on food security released Wednesday.

The report, jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the World Food Programme, found that the number of people facing hunger has increased by 122 million since 2019, to 735 million.

The number of people experiencing food insecurity stabilized in 2022 after hitting record numbers in 2021, but the situation remains grim. Hunger continued to rise in Western Asia, the Caribbean, and all African subregions. Africa continues to be the worst affected, with one in five people facing hunger on the continent — more than double the global average.

“Recovery from the global pandemic has been uneven, and the war in Ukraine has affected nutritious food and health diets,” said Qu Dongyu, director-general of the FAO. “This is the ‘new normal’ where climate change, conflict, and economic instability are pushing those on the margins even further away from safety.”

Global hunger remained virtually unchanged from 2021 to 2022 but is still far above pre-pandemic levels.

The report found that the number of people who did not have constant access to food rose to 2.4 billion in 2022, nearly 30% of the global population. Of those, 900 million faced severe food insecurity. Food inflation rose by 7% between 2019 and 2021, resulting in 42% of the global population — over 3.1 billion people — not being able to afford a healthy diet.

“One of the major messages of the report is that if we run the contrafactual – what would have happened if there was no COVID-19 – we would have seen a decline [in hungry people],” FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero told Devex, adding that the same could be said for the war in Ukraine.

Children under five continue to be especially hard hit by the global food crisis, with millions suffering from malnutrition. Nearly 200 million were undernourished, while 37 million were overweight.

“There are rays of hope, some regions are on track to achieve some 2030 nutrition targets. But overall, we need an intense and immediate global effort to rescue the Sustainable Development Goals,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement during the report’s launch at UN headquarters in New York. “We must build resilience against the crises and shocks that drive food insecurity — from conflict to climate.”

Climate models underestimate odds of ‘synchronized’ global crop failures

The onset of the Russian invasion exacerbated the global food crisis. Russian President Vladimir Putin has leveraged the importance of the Black Sea corridor to global food security obtain concessions from the international community.

The Black Sea grain corridor that allows for the safe passage of ships carrying grain out of Ukraine’s ports is set to expire on Monday. If the deal is not renewed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it could have dire consequences for the global food crisis. Prices could rise even further, and millions more people could go hungry.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed that Putin extend the deal in return for reconnecting a subsidiary of Russia’s agricultural bank to the SWIFT international payment system, according to Reuters. All Russian banks have been cut off from SWIFT since June 2022.

The release of the UN report on food security came as the world was experiencing its hottest week on record. The unprecedented surface and ocean temperatures coincided with the onset of El Niño, a climate pattern that makes the ocean water in the Pacific Ocean warmer than usual.

El Niño events, which occur naturally but are influenced by human-caused climate change, are expected to become more frequent and intense as the planet warms. The resulting temperature spikes could have a significant impact on weather patterns all over the world.

The record-breaking temperatures “highlight the far-reaching changes taking place in Earth’s system as a result of human-induced climate change,” the World Meteorological Organization said.

“We are in uncharted territory, and we can expect more records to fall as El Nino develops further,” said Christopher Hewitt, Director of Climate Services at the World Metereological Organization. “This is worrying news for the planet.”

Climate change is already having a dire impact on the world’s food supplies, and the situation is only expected to worsen. New research suggests that climate models may underestimate the risk of simultaneous crop failures across the world’s breadbaskets, a finding that could have dire consequences for global food security.

The study, published in the journal Nature Communications last week, found that climate models have been “excellent” at projecting the mean response to continued greenhouse gas emissions, but that the models may underestimate the likelihood of concurrent extreme weather events that could lead to crop failures.

“Concurrent crop failures in major crop-producing regions constitute a systemic risk,” said the team of scientists from University of Columbia. “Evidence for high-risk blind spots such as an underestimation of synchronized harvest failures as identified here, manifests the urgency of rapid emission reductions, lest climate extremes and their complex interactions might increasingly become unmanageable.”

The war in Ukraine has limited the world’s access to one vital breadbasket. Climate change could hit multiple breadbaskets simultaneously, with dire consequences for millions of people around the world.

Image Credits: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam, Breta Valek.

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