Food security: we are still going backwards

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World hunger in 2021 reached 828 million people, an increase of 46 million from 2020 and 150 million since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: FAO.
  • Opinion by Mario Lubetkin (Rome
  • Inter Press Service
  • This is an op-ed by Mario Lubetkin, FAO Deputy Director General and FAO Designated Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean (August 1, 2022)

According to the latest SOFI data, world hunger reached 828 million people in 2021, an increase of 46 million from 2020 and 150 million since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, showing that hunger has skyrocketed in 2020, after five years with no change or minor improvements. In 2019, the world population suffering from hunger was 8% of the world population, 9.3% in 2020 and 9.8% in 2021.

Looking to the future, the report predicts that at this rate, even with a global economic recovery, about 670 million people will go hungry, or 8% of the world’s population. This is the same percentage as in 2015 when more than 150 heads of state and government adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eradicate hunger and poverty worldwide by 2030!

Experts remind us that in 2021 nearly 2.3 billion people were moderately or severely food insecure, i.e. 350 million more than those affected before COVID-19.

Similarly, approximately 924 million people, representing 11.7% of the world’s population, faced severe food insecurity, a figure that has increased by 207 million in just two years. In addition, the gender gap continued to widen, with women accounting for 31.9% of these dramatic figures, while men accounted for 27.6%.

In 2020, nearly 3.1 billion people could not afford to eat healthily, 112 million more than in 2019, due to the consumer impact of the effects of food price inflation due to the economic implications of COVID -19.

This is without calculating the impact of the war in Ukraine involving two of the world’s major producers of basic grains, oilseeds and fertilizers, and other conflicts around the world.

This is clearly disrupting international supply chains and driving up the price of grains, fertilizers and energy, as well as ready-to-eat therapeutic foods for the treatment of severe childhood malnutrition.

An estimated 45 million children under the age of five suffer from waste. This is one of the deadliest forms of malnutrition that increases the risk of infant death by 12 times. Meanwhile, 149 million children of the same age suffer from growth and developmental delays due to a chronic lack of nutrients necessary for a healthy diet, and a further 39 million are overweight, all aspects that will undoubtedly affect future development. of our societies.

One way to contribute to economic recovery when faced with the threat of a global recession with a direct impact on government revenues and expenditures is through food and agriculture support, which amounted to $630,000 million between 2013 and 2018 , and to nutritious foods where per capita consumption still falls short of recommended levels for a healthy diet.

The SOFI report suggests that if governments modified the resources they use to encourage the production, supply and consumption of nutritious food, they would help make healthy food cheaper, more affordable and more equitable for all people.

The FAO, through its Director General Qu Dongyu, urges that, in this complex situation, exacerbated by war and climatic factors, investment in countries affected by rising food prices should increase, especially by supporting the local production of nutritious food. .

Currently, only 8% of all food security funding under emergency aid goes to agricultural production.

In addition, information tools need to be improved to enable better analysis and decision-making on food security and nutrition, in particular by leveraging the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC), which could be a key factor in the global response to hunger.

Specialists say that policies aimed at increasing the productivity, efficiency, resilience and inclusion of agri-food systems should be promoted.

For this, a financial investment of 8% of the volume of the agri-food market is recommended, and these investments should focus on value chain infrastructure, innovation, new technologies and inclusive digital infrastructure.

Reducing food loss and waste could provide additional food for 1.26 billion people each year, including enough fruits and vegetables for everyone.

At the same time, it would be advisable to ensure better and more efficient use of available fertilizers for better adaptation to local farming systems, while maintaining market transparency, using tools such as the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS), which is important for building of confidence in world markets, while trying to stabilize prices and maintain the open world trading system.

The solutions are there, but we must act before it is too late.

© Inter Press Service (2022) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service



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