Climate Change

Climate extremes can reverse progress in ending malnutrition

A report by the World Meteorological Organization adds that climate events in 2017 had the biggest impact on acute food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Friday 30 November 2018
Drought
Picture for representation only; Typhoon Manghkut/Ompong in the Philippines in September this year disrupted the country's food supply for the upcoming months. Credit: Getty Images Picture for representation only; Typhoon Manghkut/Ompong in the Philippines in September this year disrupted the country's food supply for the upcoming months. Credit: Getty Images

The gains made worldwide in the fight against malnutrition are being threatened by the exposure of agriculture sector to climate extremes, says a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Titled, The State of Global Climate in 2018, it adds that according to new evidence, there is a continuing rise in world hunger after a prolonged decline. One in every nine person in the world suffers from hunger and for the past three years, hunger has been on the rise, returning to levels from a decade ago.

Apart from conflict and economic slowdown, another UN report this year had said that the key drivers behind the rise in hunger are climate variability, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods. In fact, climate events in 2017 had the biggest impact on acute food insecurity and malnutrition in Africa, said the WMO report. This affected 59 million people in 24 countries. Much of the vulnerability to climate variability is associated with the dryland farming and pastoral rangeland systems supporting 70–80 per cent of the continent’s rural population, said the WMO report.

Severe droughts associated with the strong El Niño of 2015–2016 and local extreme weather and climate events contributed to the recent rise in undernourishment. In 2017, the number of undernourished people was estimated to have increased to 821 million.  

The UN report had warned that unless the world built climate resilience, the prevalence and number of undernourished people is likely to worsen since temperatures are increasing. Countries highly exposed to climate extremes are even more vulnerable. “Undernourishment is higher again when exposure to climate extremes is compounded by a high proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability,” added the UN report.

Region

Impact of climate extremes on food security

Southern Africa

Dry spells and tropical cyclones kept cereal production in 2018 at below-average levels and number of people affected by food insecurity increased significantly in southern regions.

 

East Africa

Although ample rains boosted production prospects, resulting floods contributed to food insecurity.

Asia

Cereal harvests likely to be below-average in the Near East and Commonwealth of Independent States due to rainfall deficits and conflict.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Cereal production in 2018 will see a 7.3 per cent decline from the record output in 2017. This is mostly due to drought-reduced maize outputs in Argentina and Brazil.

Philippines

Over 550,000 hectares of agricultural land were affected due to Typhoon Manghkut/Ompong and the country’s food supply is disrupted for the following months. The loss of livelihood for farmers and fisher folk during the September-October harvest can worsen food insecurity and malnutrition.

 

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