UN reports on the ‘immense’ global challenges of hunger

Hunger is fast growing worldwide despite various attempts to reach the Zero Hunger target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, report agencies. 

A 2019 report by the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World shows that hunger has risen by 20 percent in Africa’s subregions and is slowly increasing from 7 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean; while undernourishment affects some 11 percent of the Asian population.

In light of the depressing statistics, the heads of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have jointly urged bolder actions and multisectoral collaboration to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition.

Their foreword to the report highlights, “Foster(ing) pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities.”

Aside from hunger, food insecurity is just as likely to cause malnutrition or poor health. The latest report indicates an SDG monitor on the Prevalence of Moderate/Severe Food Insecurity which shows that 17.2 percent of the world’s population – some 1.3 billion people – lack regular access to “nutritious and sufficient food” and that women are slightly more food insecure than men.

Furthermore, income inequality is rising in many middle-income nations that rely heavily on international commodity trade – the uneven pace of economic recovery is in turn deriding efforts to end food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. The poor, vulnerable or marginalised, in particular, have a hard time coping with economic slowdowns and downturns.

In contrast, the report discloses that no progress has been made in reducing low birthweight since 2012, as overweight and obesity continues to rise among school-age children. The 2030 target of halving the number of stunted children seems unlikely as well as the number of under-age-five children affected by stunting has only decreased by 10 percent globally in the past six years.

As for short- and long-term policies, integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts using pro-poor and inclusive structural transformations can be undertaken to safeguard food security and nutrition in preparation/during episodes of economic turmoil.