Alarming: 1 in 5 Africans undernourished, a new FAO report on food insecurity reveals


  1. After years of decline, the trend of hunger worldwide – measured by prevalence of undernourishment – reverted in 2015, and has remained largely unchanged in the last three years.
  2. Hunger is rising in Africa, and it is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, at about 20% prevalence rate.
  3. Food insecurity plays an important role as a determinant of many forms of malnutrition.
  4. Efforts to end hunger undermined by poor economic performance in many countries.
  5. Food insecurity is associated with both undernourishment and obesity.
  6. Females are disproportionately more affected by food insecurity than males.
  7. Over 2 billion people do not have regular access to  safe, nutritious food.
  8. To safeguard against food insecurity, it is important that efforts should be directed towards having economic and social policies that cushion the effects of unfavourable economic cycles.


The latest estimates on food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition at global and regional levels reveal that undernourishment is highest among Africans, with 20% prevalence rate.

The report was jointly compiled by Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UNICEF, Word Health Organization, and the World Food Program,

In addition, one out of every nine persons, corresponding to 820 million persons still went hungry globally in 2018.

The report, titled The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Safeguarding Against Economic Slowdowns and Downturns’ is a flagship publication of the STATE OF THE WORLD series of FAO.

According to the report, recent gains in food and security that saw a decrease in the number of hungry people worldwide ended in 2015 and reversed with more and more people becoming hungry.

For the first time, the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) was introduced to measure food insecurity in the report.

The approach -FIES – relies on data obtained by directly asking people through surveys about the occurrence of conditions and behaviours that are known to reflect constrained access to

Then, certain statistical manipulations and modelling are done to calculate food insecurity.

People experiencing moderate food insecurity face uncertainties about their ability to obtain food and have been forced to reduce, at times during the year, the quality and/or quantity of food they consume due to lack of money or other resources.

It thus refers to a lack of consistent access to food, which diminishes dietary quality, disrupts normal eating patterns, and can have negative consequences for nutrition, health and well-being.

People facing severe food insecurity, on the other hand, have likely run out of food, experienced hunger and, at the most extreme, gone for days without eating, putting their health and well-being at grave risk.

Food security and prevalence of undernourishment are two indicators to monitor progress on ending hunger and ensuring access to food for all.

The report noted:

“This year, the report shows that the global level of the prevalence of undernourishment has stabilized; however the absolute number of undernourished people continues to increase, albeit slowly.”

This is indeed a great challenge that can militate against achieving the Zero Hunger of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Also from the report:

“Another disturbing fact is that about 2 billion people in the world experience moderate or severe food insecurity.”

Inequity is also reflected in the report as food insecurity disproportionately affected females than males in 2018.

The report noted that cycles of economic slowdowns and turndowns negatively affected the fight against hunger and thus, to end hunger, efforts should be concerted towards developing social and economic safeguards that will help to cushion the untoward events following harsh economic cycles.

You may wish to read the full report by clicking on the title: ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Safeguarding Against Economic Slowdowns and Downturns”.

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona is a medical doctor by training and a writer by passion. Samuel holds a postgraduate degree in Public Health. He believes that communicating medical knowledge goes beyond writing technical reviews. Samuel thus uses his expertise in public health and health systems research to transmit technical information for both academic and general audience. Please email to contact this author directly or use the contact page and your information will be passed on to him.