The issue regarding hunger in the world was brought to the spotlight again last week when it was announced that the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which provides lifesaving food assistance to millions across the world – often in extremely dangerous and hard-to-access conditions – was awarded the coveted 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, said the WFP was recognised “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”.
The WFP, which is the largest humanitarian organisation in the world, is doing a tremendous job in tackling hunger. According to the UN, last year, the WFP assisted 97 million people in 88 countries. Over the years, its efforts have been focused on emergency assistance, relief and rehabilitation, development, aid and special operations.
According to the UN, two-thirds of the organisation’s work is in conflict-affected countries where people are three times more likely to be undernourished than those living in countries without conflict. The Nobel Committee Chair praised the work of the UN agency, highlighting its role in boosting resilience and sustainability among communities by helping them to feed themselves.
Not only is the WFP highly deserving of such a recognition, but more importantly, the award brought to light once more, the suffering of persons all over the world and the challenges that must be addressed in meeting their needs.
For example, a recent report compiled by leading UN agencies has pointed to the fact that the situation in the world regarding hunger and malnutrition has gotten worse over the past five years, and more so, will continue along this line considering the huge impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on countries.
The report, “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World”, published recently, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years.
“The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. 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″.
According to the report, due to high costs and low affordability, billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously. The study found that Asia accounts for the highest number of persons going hungry, but the rate is expanding fastest in Africa.
According to the report, 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 per cent, 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.
The authors explain that this, in turn, hides great regional disparities. In percentage terms, Africa is the hardest-hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 per cent of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 per cent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 per cent). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry.
The authors noted that 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.
Several recommendations were made in the report which Guyana and other countries within the Region could find useful in tackling the issue of hunger and malnutrition. They include: the need for 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 – including 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; prioritise 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.