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132 million people likely to be affected by hunger in 2020- UN warns

…..achieving Zero hunger by 2030 in doubt

July 13, 2020 – The United Nations have warned that over 132 million persons across the globe are likely to be affected by hunger with the target of achieving zero hunger by 2030 in doubt.

The UN gave the warning following findings of the global food challenges in its latest report on “the State of Food Security and Nutrition”, the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition.

The report is jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Writing in the Foreword, the heads of the five agencies warn that “five years after the world committed to end hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off track to achieve this objective by 2030.

"As more go hungry and malnutrition persists, achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 in doubt and securing healthy diets for the billions who cannot afford them would save trillions in costs”.

The UN organizations says tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.

The report estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019, up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years, explaining that high costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously.

It disclosed that the hungry are most numerous in Asia, but expanding fastest in Africa, forecasting that the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020.

“In this edition, critical data updates for China and other populous countries have led to a substantial cut in estimates of the global number of hungry people, to the current 690 million.

“Asia remains home to the greatest number of undernourished (381 million). Africa is second (250 million), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (48 million).

“The global prevalence of undernourishment – or overall percentage of hungry people – has changed little at 8.9 percent, but the absolute numbers have been rising since 2014.

“This means that over the last five years, hunger has grown in step with the global population.

“This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished.

“This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry,”.

According to the UN agencies report, as progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems.

The report explains that all the activities and processes of the production, distribution and consumption of food have been affected.

It notes that while it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, an estimate of as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19.

This setback it says throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 , which is Zero Hunger.

According to the reports, overcoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms (including under nutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about more than securing enough food to survive: what people eat – and especially what children eat – must also be nutritious.

The report argues that once sustainability considerations are factored in, a global switch to healthy diets would help check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings.

It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030, to be almost entirely offset; while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion, could be cut by up to three-quarters.

The report urges a transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets.

“While the specific solutions will differ from country to country, and even within them, the overall answers lie with interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the food environment, and in the political economy that shapes trade, public expenditure and investment policies.

The study calls on governments to mainstream nutrition in their approaches to agriculture; work to cut cost-escalating factors in the production, storage, transport, distribution and marketing of food.

It says governments can overcome these challenges by “reducing inefficiencies and food loss and waste; support local small-scale producers to grow and sell more nutritious foods, and secure their access to markets.

“Prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behaviour change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.

The heads of the five UN agencies behind the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World declare their commitment to support this momentous shift, ensuring that it unfolds “in a sustainable way, for people and the planet.”

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