The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021: Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations released its annual report The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World on July 12, 2021. It was co-published by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report was prepared by FAO’s Agrifood Economics Division – which focuses on agricultural and economic development – in collaboration with their Economic and Social Development Department’s Statistics Division, and a team of technical experts from FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO.

The report presents the progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition worldwide and provides an analysis of key challenges in achieving this goal in the context of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It reveals that higher levels of moderate or severe food insecurity is often linked to the increase in the unaffordability of healthy diets.

This 240-page report is divided into five chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Food Security And Nutrition Around The World (Chapter 2); Major Drivers Of Recent Food Security And Nutrition Trends (Chapter 3); What Needs To Be Done To Transform Food Systems For Food Security, Improved Nutrition And Affordable Healthy Diets? (Chapter 4); Conclusion (Chapter 5).


  1. The report states that between 720 and 811 million people faced hunger in the year 2020 – marking an increase of 161 million from 2019.

  2. More than half of the world’s undernourished population – accounting for 418 million people – are found in Asia. Hunger affects about 21 per cent of the population in Africa, compared to nine per cent in Asia and 9.1 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  3. Globally, the report states, moderate or severe ‘food insecurity’ (limited access to food due to a lack of money or other resources) increased from 22.6 per cent in 2014 to 26.6 per cent in 2019.

  4. In the year 2020, 30.4 per cent of the world’s population was facing moderate to severe food insecurity. Nearly one in three people (2.37 billion people) did not have access to adequate food – marking an increase of almost 320 million people in just one year since 2019.

  5. Globally, and across regions, the prevalence of food insecurity is higher among women than men. According to the report, the gender gap in the prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity increased during the Covid-19 pandemic – it was 10 per cent higher among women than men in the year 2020. This difference increased by six per cent since 2019, says the report.

  6. As of 2020, the report states, about 208.6 million people in India suffer from undernourishment, accounting for 15.3 per cent of the total population.

  7. Nearly one in every three women within the reproductive age of 15-49 years were affected by anaemia in the year 2019. In India, as high as 187.3 million women from this age group reported being anaemic.

  8. In the year 2020, 45.4 million children under five years of age reported being ‘wasted’ (weighed less for their height), accounting for 6.7 per cent of children from the age group. More than half of this population was from Southern Asia, where around 14 per cent of children under five suffer from wasting.

  9. About 149.2 million children under the age of five were reported to be ‘stunted’ (too short for their age) in the year 2020 – accounting for 22 per cent of children from the age group. The report states that nearly three-fourth of the world’s stunted children lived in Central and Southern Asia (37 per cent) and Sub-Saharan Africa (37 per cent).

  10. In December 2020, global consumer food prices (the average price of specific food commodities) were at their highest in the last six years. The economic crises in 2020, worsened due to Covid-19 containment measures, contributed considerably to this drastic increase in world hunger.

  11. Food systems must be transformed to combat food insecurity, malnutrition and the unaffordability of healthy diets. Integrating “humanitarian, development and peace building policies” in conflict-affected areas, and paying heed to poverty and structural inequalities, will help in strengthening access to healthy diets.

  12. The report notes that the year 2021 held many opportunities towards ensuring “concrete commitments and plans” to eliminate all forms of malnutrition. These include the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Japan’s Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit in December 2021 and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in November 2021.

    Focus and factoids by Bristhy Bhandary.


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, United Nations Children Fund, World Health Organization and International Fund for Agricultural Development


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, United Nations Children Fund, World Health Organization and International Fund for Agricultural Development


12 Jul, 2021