Sep 23, 2014 by Smart Blog
Before the current millennium dawned, the United Nations (UN) set a range of millennium development goals on food poverty, giving targets for achievement by the end of 2015. With just over a year to go until that deadline, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN has published a report on the state of world hunger. Nearly 15 years into the new millennium, how is mankind doing in the war on hunger?
The UN report estimates that around 805 million people - that is around one in nine people worldwide - are chronically undernourished. In other words, those people lack sufficient food to live an active and healthy life.
The good news is that this figure is 100 million lower than it was ten years ago and 209 million lower than in 1990-92. Furthermore, the prevalence of undernourishment worldwide has fallen from 18.7% to 11.3%. Thus, political and social events have considerably improved the food security of very many people. However, the current figure of 805 million people shows that chronic hunger still exists at an unacceptably high level.
A further point is that these figures, while pleasing, mask huge regional differences. The vast majority of chronically hungry people live in developing countries but even these differ widely. The greatest numbers of hungry people live in Asia, because Asia is the most heavily populated region on Earth. However, while good progress has been made in fighting hunger in East and South East Asia, in Southern Asia improvement is much less marked. Good progress has been made in Latin America and the Caribbean, while in Sub-Saharan Africa only modest gains have been made, and one in four people in that region is undernourished.
These regional differences are due to a range of factors, including economic development, political situations, the presence or absence of war, climate and economic growth. Hunger is usually due to a range of these factors, for example in Latin America there has been huge economic growth in recent years, and many countries in the region export large quantities of food. Yet this economic success has not been enough, on its own, to ensure food for all the region's people.
As the UN's report makes clear, if mankind is to beat chronic hunger, several factors must be in place for each area affected. These factors include sufficient investment in agriculture, measures to protect rural/agricultural production and development, social protection for vulnerable people and specific nutrition programmes where needed.
Although there are still millions of people afflicted by food poverty, the figures do show that progress - substantial progress - is being made and sustained. This is great news and should encourage everybody to continue making whatever contribution they can, however small it may seem, to the elimination of hunger and poverty.
For perhaps the most pleasing lesson of the UN's report is this: if people work together with a will and commitment, for however long it takes, even the hugest of challenges really can be overcome.