The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014

SOFI-2014-Cover-300-resizeThe UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) aims to raise awareness about global hunger issues, to identify causes of chronic hunger and malnutrition and to record the progress being made towards reaching global hunger reduction targets.

This year’s report, Strengthening the Enabling Environment to Improve Food Security and Nutrition, provides not only current estimates of undernourishment around the world and progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and World Food Summit (WFS) hunger targets but also presents the experiences of seven countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, Indonesia, Madagascar, Malawi and Yemen) in developing an enabling environment for food security and nutrition.

As the report states, 805 million people, or 1 in 9, are estimated to be chronically undernourished in 2012–14. This is a reduction of over 100 million people over the last decade and 209 million fewer than in 1990-1992. In the last two decades, the prevalence of undernourishment has dropped from 18.7% to 11.3 % globally and from 23.4% to 13.5% in developing countries alone. Latter figures show progress towards the MDG of reducing the proportion of people suffering hunger by half is within reach but in terms of the WFS target of halving the number of people chronically hungry, we are still a long way off.

Progress towards these targets is uneven geographically with only Latin America and South Eastern Asia having reached the WFS target. The highest numbers of hungry people live in Asia while the highest proportions live in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that is seeing relatively low levels of progress in tackling hunger.

The report also explores a range of indicators of hunger that try to encompass the multiple components of food insecurity, namely:

Availability or the quantity, quality and diversity of food. Indicators include the average protein supply and the average supply of animal-source proteins.

Access or physical access and infrastructure. Indicators include railway and road density and economic access, represented by domestic food price index.

Stability or the exposure to food security risk and the incidence of shocks. Indicators include cereal dependency ratio, the area under irrigation, domestic food price volatility and fluctuations in domestic food supply.

Utilization or the ability to utilize food and outcomes of poor food utilization. Indicators include access to water and sanitation and wasting, stunting and underweight measures for children under five years old.

Results from this wide range of indicators show that food availability in still a problem in poorer regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. Access has improved considerably in many places largely where economic growth, rural infrastructure development, social protection programmes and poverty reduction have occurred. Utilisation is identified as the largest challenge for food security and levels of stunting, wasting and malnutrition in children remain high. Stability is also challenge particularly in regions that are heavily dependent on international food markets for domestic supplies and have limited natural resources with which to produce food such as the Middle East and North Africa. The report summarises that “the greatest food security challenges overall remain in sub-Saharan Africa, which has seen particularly slow progress in improving access to food, with sluggish income growth, high poverty rates and poor infrastructure, which hampers physical and distributional access”. [Read more…]

2013 State of Food Insecurity in the World

Farmer AfricaThe 2013 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, was launched recently, which summarises the number and location of people suffering chronic hunger. As an evaluation of progress made towards reaching the first Millennium Development Goal, the report caveats achievements made with the need for significant additional effort in ending world hunger.

The estimate for the number of chronically hungry people in the world for the period 2011-2013 is 842 million (12% of the global population), a reduction on the figure of 868 million for the 2010-2012 period. Since 1990-1992 the number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have fallen by 17%.

827 million people of the total number live in developing countries, where progress in tackling hunger has been mixed. Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, has seen modest progress; Western Asia has seen no progress; and Southern Asia and North Africa show slow progress.

This year’s report has a focus on the multiple dimensions of food security, namely availability and access, utilization and stability, and undernourishment and undernutrition. The key to understanding food security is to measure and monitor all dimensions. For example, monitoring the inadequacy of dietary energy supply, an indication of undernourishment, fails to provide a clear picture undernutrition, which has a much higher prevalence and is better measured by childhood stunting. Monitoring both, along with other dimensions of food security, can give us much better understanding of the extent of hunger and identify priority areas for action.

The current rate of reduction in the number of hungry people is not sufficient to meet the 2015 MDG of halving hunger and much more needs to be done if we are to achieve this. Economic growth, often pursued with the goal of reducing hunger and poverty, can be beneficial but is not certain to reach the most vulnerable. Policies that specifically target agricultural productivity and smallholder farmers can be successful in reducing hunger even in poor regions.

The report concludes that a “long-term commitment to mainstreaming food security and nutrition in public policies and programmes is key to hunger reduction”.

 

Counting hunger

ID-10030437 (2)When the writing of One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world? began in 2010, it was estimated that there were around one billion chronically hungry people in the world, hence the title. When the book was launched in 2012, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, in their State of Food Insecurity in the World, had revised their methodology for calculating the number of hungry and published an updated figure of 870 million for the period 2010-2012 (details of their methodology and revised estimates can be found in a previous blog post). The new calculations indicate that the prevalence of extreme malnourishment peaked in 1990, fell to 2006 and then remained stable.

Getting these numbers right is incredibly important because they influence policy and form the basis upon which global decisions regarding hunger and development are made. But calculating worldwide statistics is notoriously difficult given the scale and the reporting requirements. Even so the FAO’s methods have received strong criticism, and weaknesses have been acknowledged internally.  A new paper by Moore Lappé et al, How we Count Hunger Matters, details the downfalls of the FAO’s assumptions and calculations, and the more nuanced way we should be looking at hunger.

Because of the revised hunger numbers it appears we have made more progress in achieving the first Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015 than previously thought. This redefinition means that we are now about five-sevenths of the way toward meeting the goal rather than one-seventh of the way there. But is this really true or have the goal posts just been changed? [Read more…]