Issues related to Food Security: Few points from FAO’s recent publication

Food is most important for all human beings and that is why a baby immediately after his/her birth cries and mother gives her milk. After passing of time, we require different types of food including veg and non-veg as desired by the person, inter alia of which are carbohydrate, protein, vitamins, minerals etc.  In the world an organisation that has been doing research on eliminating hunger and improving nutrition is popularly known as FAO i.e.  Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), oldest permanent specialized agency of the United Nations, established in October 1945 with “the objective of eradicating hunger and scaling up of nutrition and standards of living by increasing agricultural productivity”. Recently, FAO has published a Report under the banner of “THE STATE OF FOOD SECURITY AND NUTRITION IN THE WORLD, 2020”. A few points based on the Report are presented here for the benefit of readers and for further academic research by the young researchers. In this context, I wish to mention that I visited FAO, Rome about 10 years ago as resource person and observed they have been doing praiseworthy work.

  1. Let me first present the data and information about the Asia as I am from Asia.  Asia is the home to more than half of the total undernourished people in the world – an estimated 381 million people in 2019. Yet, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) in the population for the region is 8.3 percent, below the world average (8.9 percent), and less than half of that of Africa. Another highlighting point is that in Asia the number of hungry people in recent years, has scaled down by 8 million since 2015.
  2. In Africa situation is not rosy. The prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) in Africa was 19.1 percent of the population in 2019, or more than 250 million undernourished people indicating increased percentage which was 17.6 percent in 2014. This prevalence is more than twice the world average (8.9 percent) and is the highest among all regions.

I was in some countries in Africa and observed there are some issues in many countries; one is lack of good governance.

  • Another shuddering point is that as per the publication while in Asia there would be 330 million hungry people in 2030 indicating its share of the world’s hunger would shrink substantially. On the other hand, Africa would overtake Asia to become the region with the highest number of undernourished people (433 million), accounting for 51.5 percent of the total.
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean region, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) was 7.4 percent in 2019, below the world prevalence of 8.9 percent indicating 48 million undernourished people. But it is noteworthy to mention that there was a rise in hunger in the past few years, with the number of undernourished people increased by 9 million between 2015 and 2019 in the region.
  • According to the Report 9.7 percent of the world population (746 million people) was exposed to severe levels of food insecurity in 2019. In all regions of the world except Northern America and Europe, the prevalence of severe food insecurity has gone up from 2014 to 2019.
  • While 746 million people facing severe food insecurity are of utmost concern, an additional 16 percent of the world population, or more than 1.25 billion people, have experienced food insecurity at moderate levels. People who are moderately food insecure do not have regular access to nutritious and sufficient food, even if not necessarily suffering from hunger.

  According to WHO, a healthy diet protects against malnutrition in all its forms, as well as non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Before conclusion, it is suggested that FAO and other organisations should see that people across the world should get minimum food and for this more research is sine qua non to increase production and productivity of food grains and production of tobacco like crop may be discarded or should be less. Also it is suggested that control of population growth is the need of the hour by adhering 2-Child norm across the world. Also it may be mentioned here that the 1943 Bengal famine, which is estimated to have caused over three million deaths, resulted not from a drought as is widely thought but from the British Government’s policy should not occur in the present world in any form anywhere.

Dr Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad

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