ROME - Conflict is worsening global starvation, the United Nations said on Tuesday, as it called for greater peace-building efforts to end hunger for almost 500 million people living in war zones.
In the world's eight hungriest countries, at least one in four people do not have enough to eat, two U.N. agencies said in a report to the Security Council on Monday.
The greatest needs in Yemen where 60 percent of the population — 17 million people — face acute hunger, followed by South Sudan, where 45 percent of people do not have enough food.
"Unless the wars stop, what we build by day will be undone by night," Andre Vornic, a spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP) in Rome, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
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Without peace, "we stand no chance of ending hunger, whatever else we do," he added.
Eliminating hunger and malnutrition by 2030 is one of 17 ambitious global goals set by governments in 2015.
But hunger levels rose in 2016 for the first time in more than a decade to 815 million people, up from 777 million in 2015, amid biting conflict, climate change and economic woes.
U.N. data shows the majority of the hungry - 489 million people - live in countries where there is war.
The report highlighted 16 countries globally, plus West Africa's Lake Chad basin, that face the greatest hunger risks.
Syria and Lebanon — which is hosting millions of Syrian refugees — were the third worst hit, with 33 percent of the population short of food.
"The intensification of conflicts is a key reason behind the recent resurgence of world hunger levels," the Food and Agriculture Organization said.
"Activities to support resilient livelihoods must be combined with peacebuilding and conflict resolution."
Two countries -- Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) — have seen dramatic increases in the number of people needing food aid over the last year, the report said.
In Afghanistan, 7.6 million people need help, with many in areas that are difficult for aid agencies to access and where armed groups are present, it said.
The situation in the DRC is also "deteriorating", with 7.7 million people short of food, an increase of almost 2 million since 2016, it said.
"Many people are eating little more than a meal a day — typically just maize or cassava root and leaves," it said.
The DRC was identified as 2017's most neglected crisis, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey.