Higher unemployment in India and an economic slowdown in Pakistan possibly led to an increase in “severe food insecurity” in Southern Asia between 2017 and 2018, the United Nations said in a report on Monday. The report defined severe food insecurity as the situation in which people had likely run out of food or even gone for days without eating.

The report, titled State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019, said that after nearly a decade of progress, the number of people suffering from hunger had slowly increased in the past three years. Around 821.6 million people – or nearly 11% of the world population – were still undernourished in 2018, the report said. Of this, Asia had 513.9 million and Africa had 256.1 million.

Global undernourishment, which declined for decades until 2015, has remained nearly unchanged at about 11% since then, the report said. Climate change, conflicts and economic slowdowns have led to food crisis.

Prevalence of severe food insecurity in Southern Asia, which had declined from 13.7% in 2014 to 10.6% in 2016, has increased in the last two years. The figure was 10.9% in 2017 and 14.4% in 2018. In absolute terms, the number of people living in severe food insecurity in the region grew to 271.7 million in 2018 – the highest since 2014. The number was 204.2 million in 2017.

The number of undernourished people in India reduced from 253.9 million in 2004-’06 to 194.4 million in 2016-’18, the report said.

“We will not achieve zero hunger by 2030,” said David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme, according to AFP. “That’s a bad trend. Without food security we will never have peace and stability.”

The report added: “To safeguard food security and nutrition, it is critical to already have in place economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles when they arrive, while avoiding cuts in essential services, such as healthcare and education, at all costs.”

The report said that with “real political commitment, bolder actions and the right investments”, zero hunger is still achievable.