World Hunger Haunts the U.N. Festivities

“There is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, yet 815 million people go hungry,” the United Nations food agency summarized plaintively.

At the same time, obesity continues to rise for adults all over the world, with a significant increase lately among children in most regions. “Multiple forms of malnutrition therefore coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child undernutrition and adult obesity,” the report warned.

A recent investigation by The Times delved into this paradox, finding food corporations exploiting the poor in Brazil with products richer in sugar than in balanced nutrients, thereby feeding obesity and its attendant life-threatening diseases.

A stark measure of the complicated problems is that a vast majority of those going hungry — 489 million of the 815 million “food insecure” and malnourished — are fighting for survival in countries afflicted by violent conflicts, with children suffering the most, the United Nations report said. Battles between armed groups within nations have increased 125 percent since 2010, with hunger often enlisted as an allied aggressor. Conflict in South Sudan produced “a humanitarian catastrophe on a massive scale.” Famine was declared in some parts of that country this year, with two out of five people suffering severe hunger and food deprivation “being used as a weapon of war,” the report noted.

In Yemen, 60 percent of the population — 17 million people — live in hunger and need urgent help. Similar conditions were underlined in Nigeria and Somalia. The human destruction wrought by rampant conflict was clearest, perhaps, in Syria, whose once-vibrant middle-income population has been decimated by civil war. An estimated 85 percent struggles in poverty now, with more than six million people suffering persistent hunger in a land where agriculture has been devastated.

Compounding these problems globally are the disruptions of climate change — droughts and floods, as well as political crises and severe economic drops in nations reliant on commodity exports, the study found.

If the diplomats at the United Nations are paying attention to the world out there, the report should prod them into a fresh look at hunger and an increased resolve to drive it back down. There are signs of hope, notably an increase in better nutrition through the breast-feeding of infants.

Unfortunately, President…

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