Following decades of decline, malnutrition has been on the rise since 2015, largely driven by climate change and war. Last year, over 821 million people reportedly suffered from hunger worldwide, the third year in a row that the malnutrition number has risen, from 811 million the previous year.
Although reversing the trend is one of the 2030 targets of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to improve the planet and its people, getting to a world where no one is suffering from hunger by then remains an “immense challenge,” the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report that was released on Monday, said.
“We will not achieve zero hunger by 2030,” Head of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley said frankly before decrying the situation. “That’s a bad trend. Without food security, we will never have peace and stability.” The WFP boss also warned that extremist groups were using hunger and control over food supplies as a weapon to divide communities or recruit new members.
Around 149 million of the world’s children currently suffer from hunger-related growth delays. Current efforts are insufficient to meet the goal of halving the number of children whose growth is stunted by malnutrition by 2030, the FAO noted.
Meanwhile, malnutrition remains widespread in Africa, with around 20 percent of the population affected. While Asia follows, where more than 12 percent of people experience it. In Latin America and the Caribbean, on the other hand, fewer than seven percent of people are affected.
To safeguard food security and nutrition, the FAO report – The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World – recommended that 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.”
A “structural transformation” is also needed to include the poorest people in the world, the report said. This would require “integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts” while tackling gender inequality and the exclusion of certain social groups.
Moreover, if the world is to meet the target of ending hunger by 2030, governments must “urgently cut greenhouse emissions, provide more support for small-scale agriculture and increase efforts to end violent conflicts,” Head of Food and Climate Policy at Oxfam GB, Robin Willoughby advised.
For Africa particularly, the only way to fight malnutrition is by “ripping off the bandage of food aid and investing in self-sufficiency”, Feike Sijbesma writes on The Guardian UK. According to the Dutch business executive and designated Global Climate Leader for the World Bank Group, it could cost just $5 billion to wipe out hunger in Africa. This is a fraction of the several billion that is spent on humanitarian aid to the continent.
To achieve self-sufficiency and ultimately food security in Africa, Sijbesma says richer donor countries need to show they are serious about helping to eradicate malnutrition and hunger by investing in agriculture and local food manufacturing instead so that African countries can become self-sufficient.