Food Security Still at Risk Worldwide

Food Security Still at Risk Worldwide

October 18, 2019

Food Security Still at Risk Worldwide

The FAO’s latest report on food security takes stock of one of the most important challenges in the modern world, with a focus on the link between the economy and access to food

Guaranteed access to quality food in sufficient quantities.” In a nutshell, this is the definition of food security, a topic that is subjected to careful yearly analysis by experts at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). For the last three years, the FAO report has come into direct confrontation with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, documenting as it does the progress made worldwide in food security, with the aim of achieving a world free of hunger and malnourishment in all its forms. To take into account of the new and broader scope of the analysis, since 2017 the report has taken the name of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, with the emphasis on the topic of food safety, with the active participation of UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to FAO’s historic partners, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). “For the first time this year, a new indicator is being considered: the prevalence of moderate to severe food insecurity based on the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). In doing so, it is pointed out that food insecurity is more than just hunger,” as per the text of the 2019 report

Fragile Balances on Five Continents

The last two editions of the FAO report had already highlighted this and the 2019 report confirms a worrying fact: food security is once again a central theme because the decline of undernourishment observed worldwide in recent decades has ended and the number of people suffering from hunger is growing, albeit slowly. This trend translates into 820 million people suffering from hunger and makes it increasingly difficult to achieve the Zero Hunger Goal – the abolition of hunger – by 2030. Africa has the worst record in terms of undernourishment, with incidences reaching and exceeding 20%. Less significant but certainly not reassuring are the numbers from West Asia and Latin America with the Caribbean, with rates of 12% and 7%. If we add moderate food insecurity to these people who are suffering from hunger, we arrive at a total of over 2 billion people worldwide without access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, including 8% of the population of North America and Europe. 

If the Economy Slows, Insecurity Rises

The data speak for themselves: food insecurity plays a leading role in determining different forms of malnourishment (which also includes obesity). And while the two previous editions of the report focused on conflict and climate change as the main problem for food security, in 2019 the experts focused on the economic aspects. 

The data show that malnourishment and hunger are rising, especially in countries with an economy in recession or stagnation and it is worth pointing out that in many cases these are middle-income nations or ones that rely heavily on international trade in primary products. As if this were not enough, these slowdowns or regressions in national economies undermine food security even more severely where inequality is greatest. For example, income inequality increases the likelihood of severe food insecurity, an effect 20% greater in low-income countries than in middle-income countries. Finally, food insecurity also takes on a gender nuance, as, on all the continents, this phenomenon is slightly more prevalent in women than in men. 

Winning Strategies

As officially recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, which in 2016 launched a whole decade dedicated to work on nutritional challenges (UN decade of action on nutrition 2016-2025), to combat malnourishment in all its forms requires 100% commitment in all sectors: from health to education, from social protection to economic and trade policies. Concrete plans are therefore needed to guarantee food security through economic and social policies capable of addressing any economic slowdowns, but it is also essential to reduce inequalities – in economic, social and gender terms – already present in individual nations. In the long term, it is essential to invest resources wisely during periods of growth or economic stability, including via structural changes in food systems that reduce the vulnerability of the population in the face of economic change.

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