April 03, 2013

Close to Meeting the 2015 target of Halving the 1990 Percent Malnourished

Economic growth is necessary but not sufficient to accelerate reduction of hunger and malnutrition. Progress has been made against world hunger. However, the number of people suffering from chronic undernourishment is still unacceptably high, and eradication of hunger remains a major global challenge. Economic growth takes time to reach the poor, and may not reach the poorest of the poor. Therefore, social protection is crucial for eliminating hunger as rapidly as possible. Finally, rapid progress in reducing hunger requires government action to provide key public goods and services within a governance system based on transparency, participation, accountability, rule of law and human rights.

World food production is increasing. With current agricultural technology the world can feed about 15 billion people. We can feed them and we can house them.

* Not cleaning off your plate and wasting food is irrelevant to feeding the poor in Africa and India. Cleaning off your plate (in the developed world) all the time means you get fat and the hungry still are hungry.
* There is millions of tons of grain rotting in India. Food production is not the problem. The problem has been an inefficient and corruption-prone distribution system. Eighteen months ago investigators said millions of dollars worth of grain meant for poor families had been siphoned off and sold locally and abroad in a scam involving hundreds of government officials.
* If there were radical life extension, this would not cause people to starve. The maximum increase in population would be about 1% per year. 1% of the population that did not die. It would not get to that level that quickly. It would take decades to deploy radical life extension throughout the worlds medical systems. It would be about 2100 before we get to about 15 billion people and would need to have developed more than current technology. We would have 50-70 years to scale up the next green revolution using synthetic biology and scaling up ocean agriculture. Again even if people in the developed world did not get lives extended to 100 years, 110 years, or more this would not mean more food for the hungry in Africa or India.

“Nowadays people don’t eat not because there isn’t any food available. We produce enough food for all. We throw out a third of the food we produce. We have hunger because people cannot buy the food or produce it themselves,” FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva said.

Different rates of progress have led to significant changes in the distribution of the undernourished in the world between 1990–92 and 2010–12. The share of the world’s undernourished people has declined most rapidly in South-Eastern Asia and Eastern Asia (from 13.4 to 7.5 percent and from 26.1 to 19.2 percent, respectively), while declining from 6.5 to 5.6 percent in Latin America. Meanwhile, the share has increased from 32.7 to 35.0 percent in Southern Asia, from 17.0 to 27.0 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and from 1.3 to 2.9 percent in Western Asia and Northern Africa.

About 870 million people are estimated to have been undernourished (in terms of dietary energy supply) in the period 2010–12. This figure represents 12.5 percent of the global population, or one in eight people. The vast majority of these, 852 million, live in developing countries, where the prevalence of undernourishment is now estimated at 14.9 percent of the population.

Improved undernourishment estimates, from 1990, suggest that progress in reducing hunger has been more pronounced than previously believed.
• Most of the progress, however, was achieved before 2007–08. Since then, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and levelled off.
• The revised results imply that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment in the developing world by 2015 is within reach, if appropriate actions are taken to reverse the slowdown since 2007–08

The new estimates suggest that the increase in hunger during 2007–10 – the period characterized by food price and economic crises – was less severe than previously estimated. There are several reasons for this. First, the methodology estimates chronic undernourishment based on habitual consumption of dietary energy and does not fully capture the effects of price spikes, which are typically short-term. As a result, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) indicator should not be used to draw definitive conclusions about the effects of price spikes or other short-term shocks. Second, and most importantly, the transmission of economic shocks to many developing countries was less pronounced than initially thought. More recent GDP estimates suggest that the “great recession” of 2008–09 resulted in only a mild slowdown in GDP growth in many developing countries, and increases in domestic staple food prices were very small in China, India and Indonesia (the three largest developing countries).

Example of successful urban food program

Belo Horizonte is the third-largest city in Brazil, with a population of about 2.5 million. In the early 1990s, about 38 percent of its inhabitants lived below the poverty line and close to 20 percent of children under the age of three suffered from malnutrition. The magnitude of this problem prompted the development of a multifaceted structural response by the government that successfully transformed the human right to foods that are adequate in both quantity and quality into reality.

The programme reduced child mortality by 60 percent and substantially influenced Brazil’s national Zero Hunger Policy, using only around 2 percent of the city’s annual budget. It has received awards from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) and from the World Future Council (WFC). The overall system consists of more than 20 highly interconnected programmes that foster and complement one another. The key elements are:

• Central project management by means of a specially created department within the municipality.
• Supporting urban agriculture with community gardens in poor districts and with training workshops to promote successful cultivation.
• Provision of special sales outlets to commercial greengrocers in the most popular markets if they offer at least 25 healthy products at a fixed low price.
• Provision of market stalls to small-scale farmers from the surrounding area, so that they have a chance to sell directly to consumers.
• A nutrition information programme targeted to poorer areas of the city, including free cooking lessons. The programme is coordinated by a team consisting of employees from the departments for health, education, sports, social work and food security.
• Free school meals that supply fresh products with high nutritional value.
• Supply of affordable, healthy and nourishing meals for low-income citizens in so-called Public Restaurants, subsidized by the municipality. Belo Horizonte has five of these, providing 4 million meals a year. As people with average incomes can also eat there, the poor don’t have the feeling of being stigmatized. The food security system of Belo Horizonte could, with some adaptation, become a successful model for other cities around the world. Work will soon be starting to bring this approach to Cape Town, South Africa and other selected African city governments.

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