Blog Post

122 Million More People Were Hungry in 2022: 2023 SOFI Report Released

The number of people facing hunger around the world has increased by more than 122 million from 2019, according to the newly released annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, , a joint publication by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), UNICEF, World Food Programme, and World Health Organization (WHO). This translates into roughly 9.2 percent of the global population experiencing hunger (measured as prevalence of undernourishment) in 2022, up from 7.9 percent prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, nearly 30 percent of the global population faced moderate to severe food insecurity in 2022 and 42 percent were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2021. These trends pose significant challenges for the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030, with the report estimating that nearly 600 million people around the world will be chronically hungry by that time.

As in previous years, Africa remains the region hardest hit by hunger. Nearly 20 percent of the region’s population was hungry in 2022, compared to 8.5 percent in Asia and 6.5 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. While hunger rates declined in Asia and Latin America in 2022, rates continued to rise in all sub-regions of Africa.

The 2023 report highlights the impact of both the COVID-19 pandemic and associated market disruptions and the war in Ukraine on global food security and nutrition trends. Looking at projected hunger in 2030, the total estimated number of people experiencing hunger would be 23 million less if the war had not occurred and 119 million less if neither the war nor the pandemic had occurred.

Continued and worsening climate change-driven extreme weather events, as well as increasing income inequality and instances of conflict and civil unrest in regions outside of Ukraine, are also major contributing factors to the world’s food security challenges.

The report also highlights the importance of so-called “megatrends” for food security and agrifood system transformation. Among these is urbanization, which poses both challenges and opportunities for sustainably ending hunger. Leveraging these opportunities will require moving beyond the idea of a rural-urban divide and looking at rural, peri-urban, and urban areas as an interconnected continuum, the report suggests.

As urban populations grow, demographic shifts drive changes in food production, processing, sale, and consumption. Diets often change and diversify in both urban and rural areas. This diversification is positive when it includes increased demand for healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables. Such demand can incentivize producers to invest in higher value production and can increase availability of healthy foods for consumers. Urbanization has also resulted in longer and more formal agricultural value chains, which provide off-farm employment opportunities for both rural and urban populations, increased access to agricultural inputs and extension services, and enhanced market access for rural producers and rural and urban traders and wholesalers.

However, increasing urbanization brings downsides as well. Dietary diversification does not always trend toward healthy foods; availability and consumption of pre-packaged convenience foods, which are often high in sugars, fats, and salt, have increased in both rural and urban areas. Overconsumption of these products leads to increases in overweight and obesity and diet-related diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In addition, producers in many regions of the world have struggled to meet demand for fruits and vegetables, meaning that many populations still do not have access to adequate nutrition. For poor populations in rural and peri-urban areas, healthy diets are still less affordable than in urban areas; in 11 African countries analyzed, the report finds that low-income households would need to more than double the amount of household income spent on food in order to ensure a healthy diet.

While the extension and formalization of agricultural value chains has the potential to open up new pathways for income generation, poor smallholder farmers are often excluded from these opportunities, particularly those located in more remote rural areas. Urbanization also poses significant environmental challenges due to the loss of natural resources and effects of land use changes on factors like greenhouse gas emissions.

How can policymakers and the international development community help agrifood systems take advantage of the opportunities posed by increased urbanization while avoiding its negatie impacts? The report emphasizes the need for a proper enabling environment and legislative prioritization to utilize and enhance linkages between rural, peri-urban, and urban areas. This includes investing in infrastructure and capacity-building, particularly for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the agrifood system.

Public and private investments in research and development are also needed to drive development and adoption of new technologies and innovations. Such investments can spur the agrifood systems’ capacity to produce and supply healthy, nutritious foods at affordable prices.

Finally, these efforts need to include sub-national and local governmental bodies in order to ensure that the policies and governance systems established meet the needs of local communities and stakeholders at all nodes along agrifood value chains.