New FAO data highlights gender gap in food insecurity across regions

Women are more likely to be food insecure than men in every region of the world, according to FAO’s latest report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017.

© Sebastian Liste / NOOR for FAO

The report, which was released earlier this month, is the result of a collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 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).

It features data from a new source of additional evidence on the state of food security, known as the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES).

Collected by FAO in 2014, 2015 and 2016, in almost 150 countries, the FIES data reveal that nearly one in ten people in the world (9.3 percent) suffered from severe food insecurity, corresponding to about 689 million people. The data also demonstrated pronounced differences in the prevalence of severe food insecurity across continents.

Sex-disaggregated data

An important feature of the FIES is that results can be analysed at the individual level, because surveys were administered to individual respondents. This makes it possible to compare food-insecurity levels among men and women, inter alia, with three-year averages showing that the prevalence of food insecurity was slightly higher among women—both at the global level as well as in every region of the world.

A global reference scale

The FIES is an experience-based metric of the severity of food insecurity; the analytical methodology was developed by FAO to obtain valid and reliable population estimates of food insecurity that are comparable across different countries and cultures. Respondents are asked about experiences associated with their ability (or lack thereof) to access food over the preceding 12 months—for example, if they had ever been worried about not being able to obtain enough food; if they had been forced to decrease the quality or quantity of the food they eat; if they had gone for entire days without eating; etc. The methodology provides the foundation for defining a global reference scale and for producing measures that can be meaningfully compared across countries for global monitoring.

The gender gap in food insecurity was greatest in Africa, at 1.5 percentage points, with Latin America and Asia following at 0.7 and 0.6 percentage points respectively. The smallest difference between men and women was noted in North America and Europe at 0.1 percent, while at the global level, the data showed a difference of just over half a percentage point: 7.3 percent of the world’s men suffered from severe food insecurity, as opposed to 7.9 percent of the world’s women.

Click here for more information, and to download the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017.