Levels of malnutrition around the world rose sharply during 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a UN report published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Rome.
The UN's State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2021 revealed that "9.9 per cent of all people are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 per cent in 2019".
This marks a rise of about 1.5 per cent within a single year after remaining virtually unchanged for five years.
The experts attributed the increase largely to the crisis unleashed by the pandemic, the effects of which would still require further investigation, they said.
According to the data, the pandemic caused "brutal recessions" in many parts of the world and made access to food more difficult - particularly in countries with ongoing conflicts and climate extremes.
The sharpest increase in the number of people going hungry occurred in Africa, where 21 per cent of the population - more than double anywhere else in the world - are undernourished.
Achieving the international community's Zero Hunger target by 2030 is now looking significantly more challenging, according to current forecasts.
In particular, drastic measures would have to be taken to eliminate inequalities in food access.
In addition to the FAO, the Unicef Children's Fund, the World Health Organisation, the Ifad Relief Fund and the World Food Programme contributed data to the report.