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Global hunger rising with conflicts, climate shocks

38 million more people undernourished from previous year

ROME – The number of chronically hungry people in the world is on the rise again after a decade of declines, the United Nations reported Friday, citing intensifying conflicts, floods and droughts.

In an annual report on the state of food security, the U.N. said 815 million people were chronically undernourished last year, 38 million more than the previous year. While the number is still below the 900 million hungry people registered in 2000, the U.N. warned that the increase “is cause for great concern.”

Sixty percent of the world’s chronically hungry people were in areas experiencing man-made conflict.

“This is a shame. This is an indictment of humanity,” said the head of the World Food Program, David Beasley.

The U.N. has said some 20 million people face possible famine in parts of South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. Overall, 11 percent of the world’s population was hungry last year.

The heads of major U.N. agencies warned that without concerted action, the ambitious goal set by world governments to end hunger and prevent malnutrition by 2030 will not be reached.

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore,” the U.N. leaders said.

While the report blamed conflicts as the main driver of food insecurity, hunger is worsened when conflict areas are also affected by climate-related problems such as droughts and floods linked in part to the El Niño phenomenon.

And while malnutrition statistics are often seen as evidence of food scarcity, the U.N. noted that there are several types of undernourishment, including obesity.

In fact, the U.N. registered more overweight and obese children in most regions of the world and in all regions for adults. In 2016, the report said, 41 million children who were under age 5 were overweight.