Tag: food security

UN report: 690 million people went hungry in 2019 ; achieving zero hunger by 2030 in doubt

Photo- FAO

By SAT News Desk/WHO Media

Rome, 13 July 2020 – More people are going hungry, an annual study by the United Nations has found. Tens of millions have joined the ranks of the chronically undernourished over the past five years, and countries around the world continue to struggle with multiple forms of malnutrition.

The latest edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, published today, estimates that almost 690 million people went hungry in 2019 – up by 10 million from 2018, and by nearly 60 million in five years. High costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously. The hungry are most numerous in Asia but expanding fastest in Africa. Across the planet, the report forecasts, the COVID-19 pandemic could tip over 130 million more people into chronic hunger by the end of 2020. (Flare-ups of acute hunger in the pandemic context may see this number escalate further at times.)

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World is the most authoritative global study tracking progress towards ending hunger and malnutrition. It is produced jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Writing in the Foreword, the heads of the five agencies warn that “five years after the world committed to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition, we are still off-track to achieve this objective by 2030.”


The hunger numbers explained

In this edition, critical data updates for China and other populous countries have led to a substantial cut in estimates of the global number of hungry people, to the current 690 million. Nevertheless, there has been no change in the trend. Revising the entire hunger series back to the year 2000 yields the same conclusion: after steadily diminishing for decades, chronic hunger slowly began to rise in 2014 and continues to do so.

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 percent, 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.

This, in turn, hides great regional disparities: in percentage terms, Africa is the hardest hit region and becoming more so, with 19.1 percent of its people undernourished. This is more than double the rate in Asia (8.3 percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (7.4 percent). On current trends, by 2030, Africa will be home to more than half of the world’s chronically hungry.

The pandemic’s toll

As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems – understood as all the activities and processes affecting the production, distribution, and consumption of food. While it is too soon to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, the report estimates that at a minimum, another 83 million people, and possibly as many as 132 million, may go hungry in 2020 as a result of the economic recession triggered by COVID-19. iii The setback throws into further doubt the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

Unhealthy diets, food insecurity, and malnutrition

Overcoming hunger and malnutrition in all its forms (including undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity) is about more than securing enough food to survive: what people eat – and especially what children eat – must also be nutritious. Yet a key obstacle is the high cost of nutritious foods and the low affordability of healthy diets for vast numbers of families.

The report presents evidence that a healthy diet costs far more than US$ 1.90/day, the international poverty threshold. It puts the price of even the least expensive healthy diet at five times the price of filling stomachs with starch only. Nutrient-rich dairy, fruits, vegetables, and protein-rich foods (plant and animal-sourced) are the most expensive food groups globally.

The latest estimates are that a staggering 3 billion people or more cannot afford a healthy diet. In sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, this is the case for 57 percent of the population – though no region, including North America and Europe, is spared. Partly as a result, the race to end malnutrition appears compromised. According to the report, in 2019, between a quarter and a third of children under five (191 million) were stunted or wasted – too short or too thin. Another 38 million under-fives were overweight. Among adults, meanwhile, obesity has become a global pandemic in its own right.

A call to action

The report argues that once sustainability considerations are factored in, a global switch to healthy diets would help check the backslide into hunger while delivering enormous savings. It calculates that such a shift would allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets, estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030, to be almost entirely offset; while the diet-related social cost of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at US$ 1.7 trillion, could be cut by up to three-quarters.iv

The report urges the transformation of food systems to reduce the cost of nutritious foods and increase the affordability of healthy diets. 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. The study calls on 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; prioritize children’s nutrition as the category in greatest need; foster behavior change through education and communication; and embed nutrition in national social protection systems and investment strategies.

The heads of the five UN agencies behind the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World have declared their commitment to support this momentous shift, ensuring that it unfolds “in a sustainable way, for people and the planet.”


Contagion or starvation, the dilemma facing informal workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lockdown measures will worsen poverty and vulnerabilities among the world’s two billion informal economy workers, says the International Labour Organization.

GENEVA (ILO News) – COVID-19 lockdown and containment measures threaten to increase relative poverty levels among the world’s informal economy workers by as much as 56 percentage points in low-income countries, says a new briefing paper issued by the International Labour Organization.

In high-income countries, relative poverty levels among informal workers is estimated to increase by 52 percentage points, while in upper-middle-income countries the increase is estimated to be 21 percentage points.

As many as 1.6 billion of the world’s two billion informal economy workers are affected by lockdown and containment measures. Most are working in the hardest-hit sectors or in small units more vulnerable to shocks.

These include workers in accommodation and food services, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, and the more than 500 million farmers producing for the urban market. Women are particularly affected in high-risk sectors, the report says.


In addition, with these workers needing to work to feed their families, COVID-19 containment measures in many countries cannot be implemented successfully. This is endangering governments’ efforts to protect the population and fight the pandemic. It may become a source of social tension in countries with large informal economies, the report says.

More than 75 percent of total informal employment takes place in businesses of fewer than ten workers, including 45 percent of independent workers without employees.

With most informal workers having no other means of support, they face an almost unsolvable dilemma: to die from hunger or from the virus, the briefing says. This has been exacerbated by disruptions in food supplies, which has particularly affected those in the informal economy.

For the world’s 67 million domestic workers, 75 per cent of whom are informal workers, unemployment has become as threatening as the virus itself. Many have not been able to work, whether at the request of their employers or in compliance with lockdowns. Those who do continue to go to work face a high risk of contagion, caring for families in private households. For the 11 million migrant domestic workers the situation is even worse.

“The COVID-19 crisis is exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities and inequalities,” says Philippe Marcadent, Chief of the ILO’s INWORK branch. “Policy responses must ensure that support reaches the workers and enterprises who need it most.”

The countries with the largest informal economies where full lockdowns have been adopted are suffering the most from the consequences of the pandemic. Informal economy workers significantly impacted by lockdown varies from 89 percent in Latin America and the Arab States to 83 percent in Africa, 73 percent in Asia and the Pacific, and 64 percent in Europe and Central Asia.

Countries need to follow a multi-track strategy that combines several lines of actions relating to both the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, says the ILO.

Among its recommendations, the report highlights the need for policies that reduce the exposure of informal workers to the virus; ensure that those infected have access to health care; provide income and food support to individuals and their families; and prevent damage to the economic fabric of countries.

Source: ilo.org

India: The Killing Fields – 1


By Gobind Thukral*

Agrarian crisis: farmers’ suicides and the Indian government apathy

CHANDIGARH: Over the years, neglect of agriculture has resulted into its definite decline and it now counts a mere one fourth of India’s GDP. Economists like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia term this as signs of development.

Forget about the all important role of the farm sector in providing food and wherewithal to survive for over 1.237 billion people, the truth which they conveniently forget are that it still provides employment to over 54 per cent in this poor populous country . It also ensures food security and thereby guarantees sovereignty. Hungry famished nations have little chance to survive as nations.

One wonders why these leaders and there are plenty of them around who have since 1990s neglected this all important sector of the Indian economy. It has been starved of funds and knowhow. Agriculture universities, once center of high ended research are starved of funds and the farmers have been left at the mercy of rent seeking sharks. The result is that not only the farm sector has been deprived of realizing its potential, but India’s strapping farmers have been pushed to the wall. Their tragic suicides stories are now a routine, particularly where they sow cash crops like cotton and sugarcane. Maharashtra has the dubious destination to lead where debt ridden farmers have been forced to commit suicides. Andhra, Kerala, West Bengal , Madhya Pradesh ,Punjab and several others states are losing their brave sons.

Here is the tragic tale of this self proclaimed super power. The extent of this tragic story, now figuring daily in the media, which otherwise is oblivious of looming agrarian crisis is horrendous. The official figure is 270,000 since 1995. Another study counted from government records 2, 84,694 for 18 years, between 1995 and 2012. The number, in fact, is more than that. Every half an hour a debt ridden farmer commits suicide.

In 1770 poet Oliver Goldsmith touched the core issue of the wretched conditions of the peasantry that fits India of 21st century.

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates, and men decay;

Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;

A breath can make them, as a breath has made;

But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,

When once destroyed, can never be supplied.”

During the last one decade – 2004 and 2014, India has added 50 billionaires to its list of four. Wealth created by the labor of millions is now in the pocket selected few.

Extent of the tragic tale of suicides

But more trustworthy are the figures quoted by well known journalist P. Sainath who has been drawing attention to this malady for the past more than a decade. He wrote, “Farm suicides rose sharply by almost 450 in Maharashtra in 2012 to touch 3,786, the latest National Crime Records Bureau data show. (The State saw 3,337 suicides in 2011). That is the worst annual increase in seven years. It also brings Maharashtra’s total tally since the NCRB began recording farm data in 1995 to a staggering 57,604 farmers’ suicides. Andhra Pradesh also saw an upward surge. It logged 2,572 farm suicides in 2012. That is 366 higher than the previous year’s figure of 2,206. Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh reported declines of 225 and 154 respectively.”

“The last of the ‘Big 5’ States”, he continues “account for over two-thirds of all farm suicides, Chhattisgarh, continued to declare a near zero figure. In 2012, it claimed it had just four. Chhattisgarh’s three-year average prior to its zero-declaration approach was 1,567. Indeed, the State’s own data, prior to that tactic, show it suffered 18,375 farm suicides between 2001-10.”

Sainath observed, “Other States seem inspired by Chhattisgarh’s methods. West Bengal sent in no data at all on farm suicides (or some other categories, too) in 2012. But its three-year average for 2009-2011 was 951. Chhattisgarh’s figure of ‘4’ and Bengal’s non-filing of data stand out in the all-India total of 13,754 farm suicides in 2012. If three-year averages for both States are included, then the national total would be 16,272. That would be the highest farm suicides figure in three years”

Among other major States, Kerala saw 1081 such farm deaths, a steep increase of 251 over its 2011 number of 830. Uttar Pradesh saw 745 farm suicides — up by 100 over its 2011 figure. Tamil Nadu reported a decline of 124 to log 499. That’s down from 623 the previous year.

No count each year since 1990, more and more farmers have been bidding goodbye to the world of their woes.

The major reason for such desperate steps by the farmers who are otherwise the core of armed forces in the county is the high cost of farming, high interest rates and poor return on their produce. Modern farming with its machines, costly inputs and intensive cropping patterns is a costly proposition, requiring heavy investment. Since the vast majority of the farmers are small and marginal, they are caught in the vicious circle and trapped by debt. The UPA government did try to mitigate this suffering by writing off debt worth Rs 77,000 crore. But it has had only marginal impact. Multinational companies like Monsanto with their long history of contamination and cover-up have only added to the gravity of the situation. According to Physicist and author Vandana Shiva who has been monitoring what is going on in these rural India, “The price per kilogram of cotton seeds has gone up from 7 to 17,000 rupees. Monsanto sells its GMO seeds on fraudulent claims of yields of 1,500 kg/year when farmers harvest 300–400 kg/year on an average.” Critics argue that Monsanto’s profit-driven policies have led to a “suicide economy” in India. (To be concluded)

*The writer is a senior journalist in India.
Source: South Asia Post (southasiapost.org)