Food in many cultures is believed to nourish the soul and bring people together. Rightly so the lack of it impoverishes many countries to their foundations by impacting their very strength, the people. One functions at full potential only if one’s body gets a decent set of nutrients, vitamins, proteins and other vital supplements. Good food means a healthy body and mind, and as a consequence a good life. Yet many people do not share the privilege to build a good life for themselves and their families in the world.
On March 23rd, the UN and the World Food Programme (WFP) named 20 countries as Hunger Hotspots for their rise in food insecurity, which will put the lives of millions of families at risk. This astonishing forecast amidst the ongoing pandemic awakened the leaders to the relevance of SDG# 2 – No Hunger.
After years of implementing robust initiatives and anti-stunting programmes, the global hunger index started to decline during the early 2000s in developing countries but from 2015 it started to increase again due to distinctive factors in each specific geography. Although poverty and economic collapse are among the underlying causes, the more influential drivers are climate change and conflicts.
For example, Chad, a country in central Africa, is one of the 20 hotspots with 66.2% of the population starving. The landlocked country is surrounded by countries that are either in poverty or in perpetual political conflicts. To top the adversity, weather shocks such as changing rain patterns and frequent droughts are affecting agriculture and farming, the essential livelihood of the people in the country. Chad is just one of many countries on the brink of starvation and severe nutrition depletion. Worldwide, 45% of deaths in children under 5 are attributed to malnutrition and 52 million children suffer from acute stunting, i.e. developmental deterioration because of poor nutrition: impaired brain development and weakened immune system, leading to increased risk of infectious diseases and premature death.
But it’s not just a health crisis. Hungry citizens also induce deep and dramatic social disorders in a country’s growth. According to UNICEF, stunting in early life is linked to 0.7-grade loss in schooling, a 7-month delay in starting school and between 22 and 45% reduction in lifetime earnings. Stunted children become less-educated adults, thus making malnutrition a long-term and intergenerational problem. This is the crisis these 20 hotspots face if we do not successfully achieve SDG #2.
Humanitarian aid organizations strive continuously to help countries eradicate starvation, yet wars, climate change and the current pandemic pose additional challenges. “If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes,” the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and WHO warned in their joint foreword to the recent report.
As fellow citizens of the world, we all can give the necessary impetus to programmes that support SDG #2 – “No Hunger”. By doing so, we are investing in a better future for the next generation, so they grow to be healthy, educated and productive members of society.