Global response to hunger remains poor - GulfToday

Global response to hunger remains poor


A girl eats a food supplement distributed by World Food Programme (WFP) in Madagascar. AFP

The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation, once stated John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, the global war on hunger is losing steam and the unpalatable truth is that as many as 113 million people in 53 countries experienced high levels of food insecurity last year, as indicated by a new, joint UN and European Union (EU) report.

It is upsetting to note that too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. Hunger is the world’s most solvable challenge and all that is called for is conscientious action through collective initiatives.

With all the technological advancements and economic progress that the world has witnessed, if millions of people are still forced to go to bed on an empty stomach, then it can only be seen as a blot on humanity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP) and EU “Global Report on Food Crises 2019” shows that the number going chronically-hungry has remained well over 100 million over the past three years, with the number of countries affected actually rising. That is indeed disheartening.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds of those facing acute hunger come from just eight countries: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

And although there were 11 million fewer people believed to be in food crisis in 2018 compared with 2017, in 17 countries, acute hunger either remained the same or increased.

With an additional 143 million people in another 42 countries just one step away from acute hunger, rapid remedial measures are the need of the hour.

Conflicts and climate-related disasters have proved to be big villains. Climate and natural disasters pushed another 29 million people into acute food insecurity in 2018, and that number excludes 13 countries — including North Korea and Venezuela — because of data gaps.

Climate variability and extremes are already undermining food production in some regions and if action to mitigate disaster risk reduction and preparedness is not taken the situation will only get worse.

Achieving zero hunger by 2030 is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals adopted by member states in 2015. UN officials had earlier cautioned that world hunger rose in 2017 for a third consecutive year due to conflict and climate change, jeopardising the global goal.

The rising numbers living in slums exacerbate the challenge.

About one-third of the urban population is in slums with limited access to welfare benefits and safety nets, which impacts on their food security, nutrition and livelihoods.

World leaders should not waste time but act together so as to tackle the issue by implementing peace and climate resilience initiatives.

There is no doubt that the global response to the hunger challenge remains poor.

World Food Programme Executive Director, David Beasley, has correctly highlighted the importance of attacking the root causes of hunger: conflict, instability, impact of climate shocks.

Boys and girls need to be well nourished and educated, women need to be empowered and rural infrastructure strengthened in order to meet the Zero Hunger goal.

Programmes that make a community resilient and more stable will also reduce the number of hungry people. And one thing we need world leaders to do as well, as Beasley suggests, is step up to the plate and help solve the conflicts, right now.

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