24.4m not getting enough food

Every seventh person in Bangladesh is an undernourished one who cannot acquire enough food to meet dietary energy requirements.

Currently, Bangladesh has got 24.4 million undernourished people or in other words 15.1 percent of its population is not having enough to meet their minimum daily diets.

This is an increase of 0.7 million over the past decade as the number of undernourished people was 23.7 million back in 2006.

The statistics have been revealed in a report jointly released on Friday by five UN organisations. It cautioned against rising global hunger.

The report, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, was jointly produced by the UN FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. It is the first UN global assessment on food security and nutrition following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 as a top international policy priority.

The state of undernourishment means someone's inability, lasting for at least one year, to acquire enough food to meet dietary energy requirements. 

According to the report, though the number of undernourished people increased in Bangladesh in past one decade, in terms of percentage of total population the hunger incidence lessened marginally. Currently 15.1 percent of the Bangladeshi population is undernourished, down from 16.6 percent in 2006.

Besides, number of stunted children (under 5-yr of age) dropped from 7.7 million in 2006 to 5.5 million now. In terms of percentage, this drop (from 45.9 percent to 36.1 percent) is significant.

Some 2.2 million or 14.3 percent of under 5-yr children in Bangladesh are still wasted.

However, the report did not have the corresponding figure for wasting in Bangladesh back in 2006.

Stunting (short height for age) and wasting (low weight for height) are important public health indicators.

The UN report also shows a rising tendency of obesity among Bangladeshi adult (18-year of age) population as the number of obese people more than doubled from 1.4 million a decade back to over three million now. 

About the global hunger scenario, the UN report stated that after a steady decline for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population.

The increase, 38 million more than the previous year, is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, said the report.

Some 155 million under-five children are stunted, while 52 million suffer from wasting, and an estimated 41 million are now overweight.

Anaemia among women and adult obesity are also causes for concern. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits as well as economic slowdowns.

The report singles out conflict, increasingly compounded by climate change, as one of the key drivers behind the resurgence of hunger and many forms of malnutrition.

“Over the past decade, conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature,” the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in their joint foreword to the report.

They stressed that some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children in the world were concentrated in conflict zones.

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition. Securing peaceful and inclusive societies is a necessary condition to that end,” they said.

Famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months early this year, and there is a high risk that it could reoccur there as well as appear in other conflict-affected places, namely northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, they noted.

But even in regions that are more peaceful droughts or floods linked in part to the El Niño weather phenomenon, as well as the global economic slowdown, have also seen food security and nutrition deteriorate, they added. 

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