About three decades ago, nearly one-fifth of the world was undernourished. By 2014–just a decade and a half later–that number halved, reflecting incredible progress in both food security and economic development.
Unfortunately, a recent U.N. report found an uptick in undernourishment, which rose from 750 million in 2013 to 821 million people in 2017, the level of 10 years ago. The main cause attributed to this sudden reversal was climate change, which has increased the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. Secondarily, major conflicts–namely in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan–have led to a breakdown in food production and supply.
The report also noted major geographical differences in the impact of climate change on hunger:
Even more interesting for an international relations buff like myself are the geopolitical implications of this development:
The increase in undernourishment in Africa comes as China is challenging the international model of development aid by offering economic deals and loans for infrastructure projects rather than programs for capacity building increasingly favored by the West. While critics are accusing Beijing of exploiting resource-rich countries, supporters are pointing at promising growth numbers.
In Latin America — where slowing economic growth in countries such as Brazil and Venezuela has coincided with political unrest — China has challenged the more traditional Western aid system in a similar way.
But the more urgent task of preventing large-scale famines or disasters is still mostly being carried out by Western-led development aid organizations. Tuesday’s U.N. report suggests that their role will become even more crucial in the coming years.
Their vital role will also be more difficult in an increasingly fragmented world. But while humanity polarizes across nationalistically and ideological lines, the causes of both climate change and hunger remain too diffuse and transnational for any one country to resolve them. Greenhouse gas emissions affect the rest of the world no matter where they come from; lower crop yields in one country can lead to starvation in another. We must not lose sight of the global cooperation and innovation that helped us get this far in eliminating one of the greatest scourges of humanity.
Source: The Washington Post