Economic cost of malnutrition is staggering, finds SOFI2019

Launched on 15 July, the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 presents the latest estimates for food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition around the world. Going beyond hunger, this year's report will provide a more detailed understanding of food insecurity and malnutrition around the world with the inclusion of the FIES indicator. Resources for sharing SOFI 2019 key findings are available at the bottom of the page. 

Key messages:

  • Global hunger continues to increase. Little progress has been made in the last 3 years to halt the rise in global hunger. SOFI 2019 estimates 821.6 million people are hungry around the world. 
  • Food insecurity is a global problem. A quarter (26.4%) of the world's population doesn't have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. 
  • The world is off track to meet all global nutrition targets. Despite recent gains in reducing child stunting, progress on all nutrition indicators is too slow to meet WHO nutrition targets by 2025 or SDG 2.2 nutrition targets by 2030. 
  • Hunger is increasing in countries facing slow or declined economic growth. 

Hunger & nutrition: 

Hunger is steadily increasing around the world with an estimated 821.6 million people hungry in 2018. Rising levels of hunger are seen in almost all sub-regions of Africa as well as across Latin America and the Caribbean. With 15% of people undernourished across the region, Asia faces mixed progress on tackling hunger with a decline in South Asian countries but a rise in West Asian countries. 

Food security is a global problem. Looking beyond hunger, SOFI 2019 finds that two billion people or 26.4% of the global population of the global population doesn’t have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. This figure has been calculated using the new Food Insecurity Experience Scale, explained in this video: 

Food security is also a key determinant of malnutrition—countries with high rates of food insecurity also have high rates of adult overweight and obesity. Globally, overweight and obesity continues to rise, especially among school-age children and adults. 

Economic slowdowns & downturns: 

With a specific focus on the drivers of hunger, SOFI has looked at the impact of climate and conflict on food security and nutrition. As the third part of this series, SOFI 2019 focuses on the impact of economic downturns and slowdowns. 

Economic slowdown: when economic activity is growing at a slower pace, but growth is still positive. 

Economic downturn: a period of no growth and decline in economic activity.

Economic shock: an unexpected, external event that can either harm or boost the economy such as rising   unemployment, lack of regular work, currency depreciation and high food prices. 

SOFI 2019 finds that hunger has risen in countries where the economy has slowed down or contracted. The five sub-regions that experienced negative growth are home to almost 263 million undernourished people. Economic slowdowns or downturns often lead to a rise in unemployment and a decline in wages and incomes that challenge access to food for vulnerable peoples.

economic slowdowns and downturns

The above graph looks at the interplay of three drivers of food crises—conflict, climate and economic slowdowns and downturns. Of the 21 countries where conflict was a principle driver of food crises, 14 of them experienced deep economic recessions. Economic slowdowns and downturns also lower the resilience capacity of households to respond to shocks such as climate changes.

SOFI2019 finds that countries highly dependent on primary commodities for import and/or export also saw a rise in hunger. 80% of the countries with a rise in hunger are highly dependent on primary commodities for export and/or import. 

Countries with greater levels of inequality have disproportionately affected food and nutrition security, especially in low-income populations. The prevalence of severe food insecurity is almost three times higher in countries with high income inequality (21%) compared to countries with low income inequality (7%). Additionally, unequal access to productive assets (i.e. land, education, health) makes it difficult for poor households to benefit from economic growth, slowing progress in improving food security and nutrition. 

Sustainable solutions for food security & nutrition: 

SOFI 2019 points to two key ways to tackle the impact of economic slowdown and downturn. Firstly, the use of economic and social policies to safeguard food security and nutrition. Secondly, the implementation multisectoral policies to tackle existing inequalities at all levels for a pro-poor, inclusive transformation. 

SOFI 2019 is authored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UN Childrens Fund, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation

G E T    I N V O L V E D:

Ending food insecurity & malnutrition in all its forms is key to not only achieving other areas of SDG2, such as achieving sustainable agriculture, but for the 2030 Agenda more broadly. Join us in sharing the findings of this report across & beyond the SDG2 community! Here are the key resources: