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July 17, 2019

More hunger


July 17, 2019

After declining for decades, food insecurity began to increase again in 2015. The UN reports that more than 821 million people suffer from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in 2018. This is the third year in a row that the number has increased. 'The state of food security and nutrition in the world' report was produced by the FAO and other UN agencies to highlight the nutritional and food security situation of the globe. The report points out that economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles, while avoiding cuts in essential services such as healthcare and education have not been successful. The UN Sustainable Development Goals aimed to reverse the trend of growing hunger by 2030. But a world where no one goes hungry remains an immense challenge. Among the hungry are 149 million children who suffer from hunger-related growth delays. Pakistan alone faces a situation where nearly 50 percent of its children are stunted. The largest pockets of hunger lie in Africa where 20 percent of the population is affected and in Asia where 12 percent are victims. Seven percent are affected in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The FAO notes that current efforts are insufficient to half the number of stunted children by 2030. The authors of the report suggest “structural transformation is needed to include the poorest people in the world and by doing so integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts.” They also suggest that closing gender inequalities and introducing policies which include all groups could be useful. Ironically, the report also notes that obesity and excess weight gain are on the rise in all regions of the world, with schoolage children and adults worst affected. There is quite obviously an unequal distribution of both wealth and food, though studies have shown that poorer people are often worst hit by obesity because of low quality, cheap diets.

Pakistan faces an especially challenging time in combatting hunger given recent inflation in the prices of food items. The impact on children and the high malnutrition rate amongst them is already attributed by some experts to be leading to delays in brain development and IQ levels. Hunger is not a problem the world should be confronting in the 21st century. By now, we should have discovered the means to channel food more equitably and to reduce the vast wealth gaps between nations and between the people within them. A globe on which so many people go hungry each day shows our lack of humanity. Clearly, in terms of policymaking, something is very wrong.

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