The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report on the 2018 State of Food Security And Malnutrition in the World revealed that hunger continues to rise globally in the last three years.
The UN agency noted that there was need to implement and scale up interventions that guarantees access to nutritious foods and break the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.
Food as a right
The report stated that access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food should be seen a s human right, with priority given to the most vulnerable.
According to the report, policies must pay special attention to food security and nutrition of children under five, school-age children, adolescent girls and women in order to halt the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition.
“For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger. The absolute number of undernourished people, that is those facing chronic food deprivation, has increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016. These are levels from almost a decade ago.
“The share of undernourished people in the world population, the prevalence of undernourishment, or PoU – may have reached 10.9% in 2017. Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions and worsened the food security, all help to explain this deteriorating situation.
“The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa. Africa remains the continent with the highest PoU, affecting almost 21% of the population which is more than 256 million people. The situation is also deteriorating in South America, where the PoU has increased from 4.7% in 2014 to a projected 5.0% in 2017. Asia’s decreasing trend in undernourishment seems to be slowing down significantly. The projected PoU for Asia in 2017 is 11.4%, which represents more than 515 million people. Without increased efforts, the world will fall far short of achieving the SDG target of eradicating hunger by 2030,” the report stated.
The report also called for a shift towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that provide safe and high quality food, promoting healthy diets for all.
FAO also noted that food insecurity which is basically unreliable access to food can contribute to child wasting, stunting and micronutrient deficiencies by negatively affecting the adequacy of food consumption. “A diet characterized by insufficient intake of calories, protein, vitamins and minerals will impede foetal, infant and child growth and development.
“Such diets contribute to maternal undernutrition and consequently to higher risk of low birthweight, which in turn are both risk factors for child stunting. The stress of living with food insecurity can also have a negative effect on the nutrition of infants by compromising breastfeeding.
“Poor access to food and particularly healthy food contributes to undernutrition as well as overweight and obesity. It increases the risk of low birthweight, childhood stunting and anaemia in women of reproductive age, and it is linked to overweight in school-age girls and obesity among women, particularly in upper-middle- and high-income countries,” the report reviews.
“There are several pathways from inadequate food access to multiple forms of malnutrition.
“Overall, there has been some progress regarding stunting and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. The number of stunted children has decreased from 165.2 million in 2012 to 150.8 million in 2017, a 9% decline. Yet, the number is still unacceptably high and the road to reaching the 2030 target is still long.
In 2017 alone, 40.7 per cent of infants below six months of age were exclusively breastfed, up from 36.9 per cent in 2012. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding in Africa and Asia are 1.5 times more than those in Northern America where only 26.4 per cent of infants under six months receive breast milk exclusively.
“Conversely, anaemia among women of reproductive age is not improving. The prevalence of anaemia among women of reproductive age has risen incrementally from 30.3 per cent in 2012 to 32.8 per cent in 2016 with no region showing a decline.
“Shamefully, one in three women of reproductive age globally is still affected by anaemia, with significant health and development consequences for both women and their children
“Overall, there has been some progress regarding stunting and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. The number of stunted children has decreased from 165.2 million in 2012 to 150.8 million in 2017, a 9% decline. Yet, the number is still unacceptably high and the road to reaching the 2030 target is still long,” it added.