PARIS -- Some 258 million people needed emergency food aid last year because of conflict, economic shocks and climate disasters, a United Nations (UN) report said Wednesday (May 3), a sharp rise from 193 million the previous year.
"More than a quarter of a billion people are now facing acute levels of hunger, and some are on the brink of starvation. That's unconscionable," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said.
It was "a stinging indictment of humanity's failure to make progress... to end hunger, and achieve food security and improved nutrition for all," he said.
More than 40% of those in serious need of food lived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Yemen, the UN report said.
"Conflicts and mass displacement continue to drive global hunger," Guterres said.
"Rising poverty, deepening inequalities, rampant underdevelopment, the climate crisis and natural disasters also contribute to food insecurity."
In 2022, 258 million people faced high levels of acute food insecurity in 58 countries or territories, up from 193 million in 53 countries the previous year, the report said.
This overall figure has now increased for the fourth consecutive year in a row.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) said earlier on April 18 that about 34 million Afghans are living below the poverty line.
That figure is a staggering increase -- nearly double -- from the last recorded estimate of 19 million in 2020.
There are no contemporary census data for Afghanistan, but the UN uses a population estimate of 40 million, meaning 85% of the nation is projected to be in poverty.
"Some have been compelled to sell their homes, land or assets that generate income," the UNDP report said.
"Others have resorted to the distressing practice of commodifying their own family members, turning children into labourers and young daughters into brides."
The economic situation could deteriorate further, Khairullah Hashimi, an economic analyst based in Türkiye, told Salaam Times on April 28.
"[Afghanistan's] economic cycle has stalled from the unemployment of hundreds of thousands of people, and all of society has been impacted by its effects," he added.
"Unemployment has hit schoolteachers, university professors, employees of nongovernmental organisations [NGOs], journalists and workers of private companies," he said.
"Additionally, even though some [Afghans] have jobs, they do not make enough income. These situations have all contributed to the stagnation of the market," said Hashimi.