STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 28 2018 (IPS) - The United Nations is continuing to fight a relentless battle to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations—by 2030.
But it is battling against severe odds: an estimated 800 million people still live in hunger— amidst a warning that the world needs to produce at least 50 percent more food to feed the growing 9.0 billion people by 2050—20 years beyond the UN’s goal.
Still, the World Bank predicts that climate change could cut crop yields by more than 25 percent undermining the current attempts to fight hunger.
The hunger crisis has been aggravated by widespread military conflicts – even as the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, was called upon last month to play a greater role in “breaking the link between hunger and conflict.”
Holding out the prospect of wiping out famine “within our lifetime”, Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the Security Council that almost two thirds of people living in hunger were in conflict-stricken countries.
He singled out war-devastated Yemen, South Sudan and north-eastern Nigeria, which still faced severe levels of hunger, while the food security situation in Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was “extremely worrying”.
In an interview with IPS, Alessandro Demaio, Chief Executive Officer of the Norway-based EAT, an international NGO engaged in the fight against hunger, said: “At EAT, our mission is a simple but ambitious one: to transform the global food system and enable us to feed a growing global population with healthy food from a healthy planet – leaving no-one behind.”
“We do this by bringing together leading actors from business, science, policy and civil society to close scientific knowledge gaps, translate research into action, scale up solutions, raise awareness and create engagement,” he noted
Excerpts from the interview:
IPS: One of the UN’s 17 SDGs (Goal 2, Zero Hunger) aims to eradicate extreme hunger – particularly in the world’s poorest nations– by 2030. Do you thinks this is feasible?
Demaio: Food is, in one way or another, linked to all UNs 17 Sustainable Development Goals. As a doctor, it deeply concerns me that more than 800 million people go hungry and more than two billion are overweight or obese, worldwide. These numbers are accompanied by a ballooning epidemic of diet-related and preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers.
While working in Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Cambodia at the frontlines, I saw firsthand how hunger has many forms. Undernutrition manifests in children in two key ways: by becoming dangerously thin for their height (wasting), or permanently impeding their growth (stunting). In the other extreme, populations with calorie dense but nutrient-poor diets drive the global burden of overweight and obesity.
There is a deeply unjust disconnect between food availability and quality in different parts of the world. One third of all food produced gets lost or goes to waste — that’s enough to feed all of the world’s hungry four times over!
But slow response to increasing pressures from climate change and increasing social inequalities means that not everyone gets access to the right foods. In fact the United Nations last year declared that hunger, after more than a decade in decline, was on the rise again.
I do believe that we can reach zero hunger by 2030. We have many of the solutions to do so, such as connecting smallholder farmers to markets, removing barriers to trade and boosting food production sustainably.
But we just need the political will to match, and to get stakeholders across sectors, borders and disciplines to work together and pull in the same direction.
Food is our number one global health challenge and a formidable climate threat. We´re not only producing what makes us sick and destroys the planet, we continue to subsidize it with billions of dollars annually. It is the worlds’ poor and the communities who are least responsible for creating them who are disproportionately affected by these trends.