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Food goal is within reach, declares UN

11 October 2013

UN/TOBIN JONES

Support: a group of Somali men sit waiting for food aid at a distribution centre enabled by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, in Afgoye, Somalia, in August

Support: a group of Somali men sit waiting for food aid at a distribution centre enabled by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces,&n...

A "FINAL PUSH" could enable the international community to meet the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) - to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger - a new report suggests.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World, published every year by the UN's Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), reports that about one in eight people in the world were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger in 2011-13, a 17- per-cent reduction since 1990-92.

The authors write: "If the average annual decline of the past 21 years continues to 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment will reach a level close to the target. Meeting it would require considerable and immediate additional efforts."

The report notes that progress has not been universal. "Significant" progress has been achieved in Eastern and South Eastern Asia and Latin America, but one quarter of people in Sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished (down from 32.7 per cent in 1990). Last week, the government of Malawi and the UN launched a relief operation to help nearly 1.5 million in need of food aid in the country. Prolonged dry spells and decreased production have led to maize prices that are double those of last year.

Reasons for regional variation, say the authors, are food price inflation, political instability, lack of natural resources, economic growth, and public policy. Economic growth is not reaching its potential in rural Africa, it warns, because of "woefully inadequate infrastructure".

The authors highlight the importance of smallholder farmers, suggesting that targeting them can achieve hunger reduction "even where poverty is widespread". This has been demonstrated in Nicaragua, one of six countries studied in detail in the report.

Smallholders have been badly affected by sudden climate-change, they warn, which "may play an even more prominent role in the coming decades". The volatility of food prices also makes these farmers "risk-averse, [it] lowers their propensity to adopt and invest in new technologies and ultimately results in lower overall production".

Globalisation is discussed. Remittances sent by migrants to their home countries now account for three times the amount of official development assistance, and has had "significant impacts on poverty and food security", the authors write.

The report suggests that the MDG target to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty was reached in 2008, and that the goal to halve the proportion without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation was reached in 2010.

 

UN warns on Mali: Three out of four households in Mali do not have enough to eat and are "heavily dependent on food assistance", the UN has warned. Last Friday, the World Food Programme announced that it was expanding its operation in the country, to reach more than 680,000 people in a country still recovering from civil conflict.

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