Africa Hunger and Poverty
Goal two of the Sustainable Development Goals, developed in 2016, strives for “Zero Hunger” by 2030. Unfortunately, hunger and malnutrition remain a large barrier of development in many regions, including Africa.There are large differences among continents in the prevalence of severe food insecurity. Approximately 27.4% of the population in Africa was classified as severely food insecure in 2016, which is almost four times as high as any other region. Alarmingly, food insecurity is on the rise, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. From 2014 to 2016, food insecurity increased by about 3% (FAO, 2017).Table 1. Percentage and number of people affected by severe food insecurity in 2016 PercentageMillionsWorld9.3 (± 0.4)688.5 (± 27.6)Africa27.4 (±0.7)333.2 (±8.6)Asia7.0 (± 0.6)309.9 (± 26)Latin America6.4 (± 0.3)38.3 (± 2.0)Northern America and Europe1.2 (±0.1)13.0 (±1.3)Source: FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO. 2017. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. Building resilience for peace and food security. Rome, FAO. Global estimates of undernourishment rose from 777 million in 2015 to 821 million in 2017. Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, estimated in 2016 to be 20% of the population. This is especially alarming in Eastern Africa, where it is suspected that one-third of the population is undernourished. Due primarily to its larger population size, Asia has the highest total number of undernourished individuals—520 million, versus Africa’s 243 million (FAO, 2017).
Chronic undernutrition contributes to stunting in children under five years of age. This means that the child is too short for his or her age, which can have long-term negative impacts on health and development. The prevalence of stunting is highest in the eastern, middle, and western sub-regions of Africa, as well as Southern Asia and Oceania according to estimates in 2016. Prevalence of stunting has decreased in most regions, with reductions in the sub-regions of Africa being the slowest to decrease (FAO, 2017).Acute undernutrition contributes to wasting in children under five years of age. This means that the child is too thin for his or her height. Childhood wasting is attributed to higher risk of disease and death. The prevalence of wasting in Africa was estimated to be 7.4% in 2016 (FAO, 2017). What are the causes of hunger?Food insecurity and hunger are caused by many factors, often being intertwined with one another. In general, the principal causes of hunger include poverty, conflict, climate and weather, lack of investment in agriculture, and unstable markets. (World Food Programme, 2018). Note: This is not an exhaustive list; See factsheet on hunger and nutrition. Poverty Poverty is a principal cause of hunger in Africa and elsewhere. Individuals living in poverty often cannot afford food of sufficient quality or quantity to live a healthy life. According to the World Bank, in 2013, 42.3% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.90 or less per day, a principal factor of widespread hunger. Poverty is often a cycle. Children exposed to long-term undernutrition are often stunted, leading to long- term consequences including decreased labor productivity and income-earning potential (FAO, 2017).ConflictConflict and violence can have direct and indirect impacts on all levels of the food system, leading to food insecurity and hunger. Conflict often puts constraints on employment and income opportunities, which affects an individual’s ability to acquire food. Conflict can also affect exports and imports, which can lead to limited food availability and affordability. Availability of food can also be affected if resources (land, equipment, etc.) used to produce food are destroyed during times of conflict (FAO, 2017).In 2017, conflict was the major cause of food insecurity and hunger in 18 countries, affecting about 74 million individuals. Eleven of these countries were in Africa, which totaled about 37 million people. Northern Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan account for the majority of these individuals (Food Security Information Network, 2018). Since 2013, South Sudan has experienced ongoing conflict, which has caused an increase in food insecurity. In 2017, parts of South Sudan declared famine (see image below), and more than 42% of the population faced severe food insecurity