Hunger and Malnutrition are rising across the globe with increasing population and declining resources. According to a study jointly conducted by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, UNICEF, UN World Food Programme, International Fund for Agriculture and the World Health Organization, almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years (2014-2019).
The study titled State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. Thus, it is very important to take the findings of the study into consideration and develop a framework to address the issue of malnutrition and hunger.
Hunger is an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy. For many years, FAO has used the prevalence of undernourishment indicator to estimate the extent of hunger in the world. In this context, “hunger” can also be referred to as undernourishment.
Findings of the Study regarding Hunger
Chronic Hunger: After steadily diminishing for decades, chronic hunger has slowly been rising since 2014. There has been no change in the same so far.
Regional Hotspots: Hunger is highly concentrated in Asia. In fact, the continent is home to the greatest number of people that suffer from hunger (381 million), followed by Africa (250 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million).
Rate of Hunger: The rate of undernourishment (hunger) in Africa is double compared to Asia and it is expected that by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry.
Impact of Covid-19: The Covid-19 pandemic could also push over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020.
Findings of the Study regarding Malnutrition:
Affordability: The study has estimated that 3 billion people or more of the total population on earth, cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57% of the population. The key reason behind malnutrition is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families.
In fact, the study mentions that the cost of a healthy diet is far more than USD 1.90/day, which is the international poverty threshold. It puts the price of even the least expensive healthy diet at five times the price of the diet which necessarily fills stomachs with only starch.
Recommendations by the Study
In this bleak scenario, achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (2) of ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2030 is going to be a challenging feat. Not only this, but such a scenario can also lead to a future that will only aggravate such a problem because undernourished persons are likely to have low productivity in the future which in turn will increase the income gap as well as food insecurity, turning the issue in a vicious circle. In order to tackle it, the study gave the following recommendations.
Shifting of Diet: A global switch to healthy diets is required to check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings. This will not only be beneficial to the development of individuals but will also reduce the health costs associated with unhealthy diets. In addition to this, the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at USD 1.7 trillion, could also be cut by up to three-quarters by 2030.
Transform Food Systems: The transformation of food systems will not only reduce the cost of nutritious foods but also increase the affordability of healthy diets.
In order to achieve the above goals, the study calls on governments of the world to take the following measures in their respective countries.
– Streamlining nutrition in approaches to agriculture.
– Working to cut cost-escalating factors in production, storage, and transport.
– Improving the distribution and marketing of food in order to reduce inefficiencies and food loss and waste.
– Supporting local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods and secure their access to markets.
– Prioritizing children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need.
– Fostering behavioural change through education and communication.
– Embedding nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.
The study is a wake-up call for the governments as well as the citizens. It is a reminder that there are many people who are at a disadvantage merely because of lack of nourishment. It is prudent not just for the benefit of the society but also for the sake of humanity to address the issue in every capacity and ensure that the SDG of global hunger is met surely on time, if not earlier than that.