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The 3 billion people who can’t afford a healthy diet

Although not often the focus of media attention, hunger and undernourishment are problems that afflict millions of people every day.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), more than 3 billion people could not afford a healthy diet in 2020, an increase of 112 million compared to 2019. This increase is partly due to rising food prices, with the average cost of healthy eating up 3.3% on 2019 levels.

In August 2022, the FAO Food Price Index was up 40.6% compared to average 2020 levels. Unless income levels rise by a similar magnitude, the healthy diet crisis is likely to have worsened, especially in low-income countries facing food inflation galloping.

Using data from the FAO, the infographic above maps the share of people unable to afford a healthy diet in 138 different countries in 2020 (latest data available).

The cost and affordability of healthy eating

According to the FAO, a healthy diet is one that meets daily energy needs as well as the requirements of food and dietary guidelines created by the country.

(In)affordability is measured by comparing the cost of healthy food to income levels in the country. If the cost exceeds 52% average household income, the diet is considered unaffordable.

Here is an overview of the populations unable to afford a healthy diet and the cost of such a diet around the world:

Country Percentage of population unable to afford healthy food Cost of healthy food (USD per person per day)
Burundi 🇧🇮 97.2% $2.9
Madagascar 🇲🇬 97.0% $3.2
Liberia 🇱🇷 96.8% $3.9
Malawi 🇲🇼 96.6% $3.1
Nigeria 🇳🇬 95.9% $4.1
Central African Republic 🇨🇫 95.1% $3.6
Guinea 🇬🇳 94.9% $4.1
Angola 🇦🇴 94.3% $4.5
Congo 🇨🇬 92.4% $3.4
Sudan 🇸🇩 91.8% $4.3
Mozambique 🇲🇿 91.5% $3.2
Democratic Republic of Congo 🇨🇩 90.0% $2.1
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱 89.2% $2.9
Nigeria 🇳🇪 88.8% $2.9
Zambia 🇿🇲 88.0% $3.3
Tanzania 🇹🇿 87.6% $2.7
Guinea-Bissau 🇬🇼 87.2% $3.5
Ethiopia 🇪🇹 86.8% $3.4
Rwanda 🇷🇼 86.3% $2.7
Haiti 🇭🇹 85.9% $4.5
Sao Tome and Principe 🇸🇹 84.7% $3.6
Nepal 🇳🇵 84.0% $4.4
Lesotho 🇱🇸 83.5% $4.3
Pakistan 🇵🇰 83.5% $3.7
Chad 🇹🇩 83.4% $2.8
Benin 🇧🇯 82.9% $3.7
Uganda 🇺🇬 82.2% $2.7
Kenya 🇰🇪 81.1% $3.0
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫 80.1% $3.3
Laos 🇱🇦 79.8% $4.1
Mali 🇲🇱 74.3% $3.1
Bangladesh 🇧🇩 73.5% $3.1
Egypt 🇪🇬 72.9% $3.4
Eswatini 🇸🇿 71.8% $3.4
India 🇮🇳 70.5% $3.0
Indonesia 🇮🇩 69.1% $4.5
Philippines 🇵🇭 68.6% $4.1
Jamaica 🇯🇲 66.2% $6.7
South Africa 🇿🇦 65.2% $4.3
Burma 🇲🇲 65.1% $4.2
Gambia 🇬🇲 64.0% $3.1
Djibouti🇩🇯 63.9% $3.1
Botswana 🇧🇼 61.4% $3.7
Ghana 🇬🇭 61.2% $4.0
Cameroon 🇨🇲 60.7% $2.8
Mauritania 🇲🇷 60.7% $3.7
Fiji 🇫🇯 60.4% $3.9
Suriname 🇸🇷 58.8% $5.7
Namibia 🇳🇦 56.8% $3.5
Bhutan 🇧🇹 53.0% $5.0
Mongolia 🇲🇳 51.4% $5.1
Honduras 🇭🇳 51.3% $3.5
Iraq 🇮🇶 49.6% $3.5
Kyrgyzstan 🇰🇬 49.6% $3.2
Sri Lanka 🇱🇰 49.0% $3.9
Senegal 🇸🇳 46.0% $2.3
Guyana 🇬🇾 43.0% $4.9
Armenia 🇦🇲 42.9% $3.2
Tajikistan 🇹🇯 42.1% $3.5
Cape Verde 🇨🇻 38.1% $3.6
Belize 🇧🇿 36.4% $2.1
Gabon 🇬🇦 36.3% $3.6
Nicaragua 🇳🇮 35.7% $3.3
Algeria 🇩🇿 30.2% $3.8
Vietnam 🇻🇳 30.0% $4.1
Colombia 🇨🇴 26.5% $3.1
Mexico 🇲🇽 26.3% $3.3
Bolivia 🇧🇴 24.7% $3.8
Palestine 🇵🇸 23.1% $3.4
Ecuador 🇪🇨 21.4% $2.9
Saint Lucia 🇱🇨 20.6% $3.6
Peru 🇵🇪 20.5% $3.3
Iran 20.3% $3.6
Tunisia 🇹🇳 20.3% $3.6
Albania 🇦🇱 20.1% $4.2
Brazil 🇧🇷 19.0% $3.1
Dominican Republic 🇩🇴 18.3% $3.9
Panama 🇵🇦 18.2% $4.5
North Macedonia 🇲🇰 18.0% $3.4
Paraguay 🇵🇾 17.8% $3.5
Montenegro 🇲🇪 17.5% $3.5
Thailand 🇹🇭 17.0% $4.3
Costa Rica 🇨🇷 16.8% $4.1
Morocco 🇲🇦 16.7% $2.8
Serbia 🇷🇸 16.3% $4.2
Jordan 🇯🇴 14.9% $3.6
Mauritius 🇲🇺 13.5% $3.6
China 🇨🇳 12.0% $3.0
Trinidad and Tobago 🇹🇹 11.6% $4.2
Romania 🇷🇴 8.8% $3.2
Bulgaria 🇧🇬 8.5% $4.1
Seychelles 🇸🇨 6.8% $3.8
Moldova 🇲🇩 6.7% $2.8
Chile 🇨🇱 3.8% $3.4
Croatia 🇭🇷 3.8% $4.3
Bosnia and Herzegovina 🇧🇦 3.7% $4.0
Uruguay 🇺🇾 3.6% $3.4
Russia 🇷🇺 3.5% $3.4
Greece 🇬🇷 3.2% $3.1
Italy 🇮🇹 2.9% $3.1
Japan 🇯🇵 2.5% $5.8
Hungary 🇭🇺 2.0% $3.5
Spain 🇪🇸 2.0% $2.8
Malaysia 🇲🇾 1.9% $3.5
Latvia 🇱🇻 1.8% $3.2
South Korea 🇰🇷 1.7% $5.2
United States 🇺🇸 1.5% $3.4
Maldives 🇲🇻 1.4% $3.9
Estonia 🇪🇪 1.3% $3.3
Kazakhstan 🇰🇿 1.2% $2.7
Lithuania 🇱🇹 1.2% $3.1
Slovakia 🇸🇰 1.2% $3.2
Israel 🇮🇱 1.0% $2.5
Poland 🇵🇱 1.0% $3.2
Austria 🇦🇹 0.8% $3.0
Australia 🇦🇺 0.7% $2.6
Canada 🇨🇦 0.7% $3.0
Malta 🇲🇹 0.7% $3.8
Sweden 🇸🇪 0.6% $3.3
Portugal 🇵🇹 0.5% $2.7
United Kingdom 🇬🇧 0.5% $1.9
Denmark 🇩🇰 0.4% $2.5
Norway 🇳🇴 0.4% $3.5
Cyprus 🇨🇾 0.3% $3.0
Belarus 🇧🇾 0.2% $3.3
Belgium 🇧🇪 0.2% $3.1
Czechia 0.2% $3.0
Germany 🇩🇪 0.2% $3.0
Netherlands 🇳🇱 0.2% $3.0
Finland 🇫🇮 0.1% $2.7
France 🇫🇷 0.1% $3.2
Ireland 🇮🇪 0.1% $2.2
Luxemburg 🇱🇺 0.1% $2.7
Slovenia 🇸🇮 0.1% $3.1
Azerbaijan 🇦🇿 0.0% $2.5
Iceland 🇮🇸 0.0% $2.4
Switzerland 🇨🇭 0.0% $2.7
United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪 0.0% $3.1
World 🌎 42.0% $3.5

In 52 countries, more than half of the population cannot afford a healthy diet. The majority of them are found in Africa, with the rest located in Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

By contrast, in four countries – Azerbaijan, Iceland, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates – everyone can afford a healthy diet. The picture is similar for most European and developed high-income countries, where more than 95% Population box afford a healthy diet.

When percentages are translated into numbers, Asia has the highest number of people unable to afford a healthy diet at 1.89 billion, including 973 million people in India alone. Another one 1 billion people live in Africa, with about 151 million people in the Americas and Oceania.

While hunger is a global concern, it is particularly acute in African countries, which cover all of the top 20 spots in the table above.

The worsening food crisis in Africa

In many sub-Saharan African countries, more than 90% of the population cannot afford a healthy diet.

Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly sensitive to extreme weather events and the resulting food price volatility. Roughly a third global droughts occur in the region, and some sub-Saharan countries are also heavily dependent on food imports.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has deepened the crisis, with many African countries importing more than 50% of their wheat from the two warring countries. Rising food prices due to this supply chain disruption have led to double-digit food inflation in many African countries, meaning more people are unlikely to be able to afford food. healthy.

The Horn of Africa region, at the eastern tip of Africa, is particularly hot. All countries in the region are dependent on wheat from Russia and Ukraine, with Eritrea (100%) and Somalia (>90%) occupying the top spots in the import dependency chart. Additionally, the region is facing its worst drought in 40 years alongside ongoing political conflicts. As a result, 22 million people are at risk of starvation.

Population growth and food insecurity

In November 2022, the world’s population is expected to exceed 8 billion people, and many of the fastest growing countries are also food insecure.

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to increase by 35% and to meet growing food demand, agricultural production will need to double. Since agriculture is one of the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, this increase in agricultural production will also need to be environmentally sustainable.

As the impacts of climate change intensify and demand for food increases, reducing food waste, building climate-resilient agricultural infrastructure, and improving agricultural productivity will all play key roles in sustainably reducing levels of food insecurity.

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