ONE Policy Intern Michaela Gaziano reports.
With the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals fast approaching, the global community has been anxiously tracking the progress of these goals. A recent report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that we may be able to halve the percentage of the world’s hunger by 2015—but only if we step it up.
Between 2011 and 2013, a staggering 842 million people – nearly 1 in 8 people worldwide – suffered from chronic hunger, according to the recent FAO report “The State of Food Insecurity in the World.” While this global figure is lower than the 868 million reported for 2010 to 2012, it masks disparities across regions.
In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of chronically hungry is far more drastic: 1 in 5 people are undernourished. As the global percentage has gone down, the share of global hunger has actually gone up in Africa, as well as Southeast Asia and western Asia.
Though these numbers are high, the FAO reports that if current trends continue through 2015, malnutrition in developing countries will near the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing hunger by half.
When the Millennium Development Goals were established, 24 percent of the developing world was suffering from chronic hunger. If current trends continue, 13 percent of the developing world will be undernourished in 2015. This means that we need to significantly boost efforts now to reduce hunger to reach the MDG target of 12 percent by 2015.
The report noted that countries who have recently experience conflict, landlocked countries and countries lacking infrastructure and strong institutions will have the most trouble.
Fortunately, the State of Food Insecurity identified a few key things that nations and policy makers can focus on in order to reach this goal:
1. Food availability: Over the past 20 years, food production has risen dramatically in developing countries due to changes in technology. This rate needs to continue, and the food that is available needs to be healthy and nourishing.
2. Economic and physical access to food: Reductions in poverty rates as well as local food prices decrease the rate of chronic hunger. In order for economic growth to reach those who are affected by hunger, pro-poor economic policies need to be established. Food transportation routes, such as paved roads and transportation technology, need to continue to be constructed and advanced.
3. Food utilization: Indicators that measure stunting and underweight in children need to be measured regularly.
4. Stability over time: International fluctuations in food prices usually disproportionately affect the most poor. Small farms and vulnerable populations need to be carefully watched as food prices fluctuate.
These indicators will help the global community focus on the kinds of changes that produce real results, something ONE is pretty excited about. They will also help local governments in areas where progress has been slower, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, center their focus and measure their improvements.
The African Union Year of Agriculture offers a unique political moment to re-energize these efforts to combat chronic hunger. ONE will continue to advocate for policies that support smallholder farmers, enhance their agricultural productivity, and increase their food availability.