Asia Pacific still home to most of world's undernourished – report
MANILA, Philippines – The Asia Pacific region has halved the proportion of undernourished people, achieving the Millennium Development Goal’s hunger target, according to the regional report of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
From 1990’s 24%, the prevalence of hunger was reduced by 236 million or 12%. 25 years ago, one in every 4 people was undernourished but now, it is down to only one in every 8.
But despite the identified “great strides” in food security, the 2015 Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in Asia and Pacific found that the region still has 490 million people suffering from chronic hunger. This is two-thirds of the current population of hungry people in the world or at least 730 million.
In addition, diet-related problems still continue to plague the Asia Pacific despite the decreasing number of people suffering from hunger.
Aside from undernutrition, the region continues to see a rising number of cases of stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, calorie consumption deficiency, and obesity – making the double burden of malnutrition rise in the region.
Gap between countries
According to the report, individual country performance against hunger and malnutrition differs.
The prevalence and way each government addressed these problems vary based on several factors including:
- Economic growth
- Natural resources for food production
- Macroeconomic and sector policy environments
- Internal peace and security situation
- Institutional stability
Countries situated in the Eastern and South-Eastern Asia performed better due to the “rapid” economic growth and efforts to improve the capacity of their respective agricultural sectors.
Meanwhile, the performance of those in Southern Asia was severely affected by poor infrastructure, in addition to the rampant war and conflict situations.
The report added that affected people typically live in extreme poverty. They also suffer from, aside from lack of food and income, little access to education and health facilities.
Many of them are said to be landless farmers, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and other disadvantaged society groups.
As the region with the most undernourished people in the world, countries in the Asia Pacific should be more active in eradicating hunger and malnutrition “with full commitment and vigour.”
However, ending food insecurity – the roots of these problems – cannot be done overnight. It consists of complex issues that need to be addressed through contributions from several sectors, both government and private. (READ: The roadmap to ending global hunger)
Different strategies may be implemented to help end hunger in the region but they should be carefully crafted and in line with the existing situation of each country.
FAO recommends some strategies and considerations that can be used to face the challenges of food security in the coming years:
- Reform policy and institutional framework
- Accelerate investment and innovation in agricultural
- Increase water productivity
- Promote diversification in food production and consumption
- Invest in rural and on-farm infrastructure and agricultural mechanization
- Close the gender gap in agriculture
- Promote sustainable resource management and conservation
- Strengthen public-sector and community-based social protection and safety nets
- Expand access to clean water, sanitation, and health care
- Promote nutritional awareness among women, teachers and community workers, and improve child nutrition
- Ensuring food safety and quality
- Promote indigenous and underutilized food resources
- Promote rural employment and income generation
- Reduce food losses and food waste
- Reduce farmers’ risk and uncertainties from weather and other factors
- Reduce impact of climate change on agriculture
- Strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration
The fact remains that there are still a remaining 12% of the total population who are undernourished and hungry. Now Asia faces the challenge of food production – ensuring that no one will be left behind – with limited resources as the risks of climate change loom. – Rappler.com