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LONDON: The number of people affected by hunger globally rose to 828 million in 2021, according to a UN report.Since 2020, the figure had increased by approximately 46 million, and by 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2022 report was jointly published on Monday by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the UN Children’s Fund, the UN World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

In 2021, approximately 2.3 billion people (29.3 percent of the global population) were moderately or severely food insecure, 350 million more than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, the gender gap in food insecurity widened further: 31.9 percent of women worldwide were moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27.6 percent of men, a difference of more than 4 percentage points from 2020.

Almost 3.1 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, an increase of 112 million from 2019. This reflects the effects of consumer food price inflation caused by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures put in place to contain it.

Exclusive breastfeeding is progressing, with nearly 44 percent of infants under 6 months of age being exclusively breastfed globally by 2020. This falls short of the target of 50% by 2030.

“These are depressing figures for humanity. We continue to move away from our goal of ending hunger by 2030. The ripple effects of the global food crisis will most likely worsen the outcome again next year,” the International Fund for Agricultural Development President Gilbert F. Houngbo.

Looking ahead, projections show that nearly 670 million people (8 percent of the global population) will still be hungry in 2030, even if the global economy recovers.

The report emphasized the escalation of the major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition: conflict, climate extremes, and economic shocks, combined with growing inequalities.

The evidence suggests that repurposing the resources used to incentivize the production, supply, and consumption of nutritious foods will help to make healthy diets less expensive, more affordable, and equitable for all.

According to the report, governments could do more to reduce trade barriers for nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and pulses.