The launch of the 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI 2019) report was one of the key moments at the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF 2019 under the auspices of ECOSOC) currently ongoing in New York City.
SOFI 2019 paints a grim picture with concerns that the Zero Hunger target (SDG2) may not be achieved as world hunger rises for the third year in a row. There were 821 million people critically undernourished in the world last year, a rise from 811 million in 2017. In their pre-launch statement, FAO’s DG José Graziano da Silva and Máximo Torero (Assistant Director-General for the Economic and Social Development Department at FAO) highlighted the urgency to improve nutrition and fast-track food security for all, noting that “the Zero Hunger goal is not simply to eradicate hunger but also to ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round and to end all forms of malnutrition.”
In addition to the more than 821 million still hungry in the world, other key messages from the report indicate:
- A rise in hunger in Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean with undernourishment prevalence of 20%, 12%, 7% respectively.
- Lack of regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food for over 2 billion people, including 8% of the Northern America and European population.
- While the number of stunted children has declined by 10%, 149 million children are still stunted and approximately 20.5 million babies globally suffer from low birthweight.
- Overweight and obesity continue to increase in all regions – In 2018, an estimated 40 million children under five were overweight. In 2016, 131 million children 5–9 years old, 207 million adolescents and 2 billion adults were overweight. About a third of overweight adolescents and adults, and 44% of overweight children aged 5–9 were obese. The economic costs of malnutrition are staggering.
- Conflict, climate variability and extremes, the uneven pace of economic recovery and continuing poor economic performance in many countries after the 2008–2009 global economic downturn are also undermining efforts to end hunger and malnutrition.
As part of its recommendations, the report calls for structural transformation, involving agriculture and food systems, to help ensure that food security and nutrition objectives are met. This includes fostering better access to more nutritious foods that constitute a healthy diet. Policymakers are called upon to ensure that policies that facilitate trade also help achieve nutrition objectives. Countries are also urged to protect incomes and purchasing power through social protection programmes, including cash transfers and school feeding. Health sector policies that protect the poor against catastrophic out-of-pocket healthcare costs are essential, as well as policies aimed at reducing excessive volatility of food prices.
Even though the private sector is not extensively mentioned in the report, a section on “commodity price trends and booms” recognizes the need for effective collaboration between public and private sectors, and high levels of investments for diversification and upgrading of the productive structures and capabilities from which wealth is created and distributed.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World “is an annual flagship report jointly prepared by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO to inform on progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and to provide in-depth analysis on key challenges for achieving this goal in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (WFP, 2019).