Global Hunger: A Threat to Sustainable Development Goals?

By Campaign Agent Charlotte Davies

Threatening progress made in the past twenty years in combatting global hunger, recent reports suggest a reversal of trends. With global hunger increasing in the past two years, climate-related food insecurity presents itself as a pressing concern. The annual State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition report, published on 11th September by five of the United Nations agencies, suggests that global hunger is returning to levels last seen almost a decade ago. The key concern now is how best to address this. 

Posing a serious threat to the pledge to end world hunger by 2030, goal number 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), global world hunger is set to rise further unless appropriate action is taken. In 2017, the number of those in hunger across the globe increased from 804 million to just under 821 million, reaching a level not seen for almost a decade. At the same time, the frequency of extreme climate events, including floods, storms and droughts, has doubled since the early 1990s, and is set to continue to rise. Posing serious threats to livelihoods, these extreme climate events are one of the key triggers for growing world hunger. This, coupled with the evident reversal in progress towards ending world hunger, sends a clear warning that more must be done if the SDG of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030.

The difficulties in accessing food are widespread and are part of a larger subset of problems. The report suggests that difficulties accessing nutritious and wholesome food is contributing to the increase in obesity worldwide, with one in eight adults - over 672 million people – now being catagorised as obese. With this in mind, there is a call for a more integrated, multi-faceted approach to tackling malnutrition. What is perhaps needed is the recognition of safe, nutritious and sufficient food as a basic human right. Particular attention must also be given to children and young adults. There needs to be the promotion of a clear shift towards nutritious agriculture and food systems, ensuring that safe and high-quality food is accessible to all. 

While it is evident that world hunger is again a key concern for global politics, the failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world. Hence, efforts to fight hunger must coincide with efforts to sustain peace. Thus, in order to solve the problem of global hunger, attention must also be focused on creating safe political environments. While there is a clear need to focus efforts on building climate resilience for food security and nutrition, what is needed is greater investments in climate resilience. Creating lasting partnerships with enhanced risk management capacities and large-scale funding is vital. 

Without a doubt, more needs to be done if the problem of food distribution is to be solved. "Climate variability and extremes - in addition to conflict and violence in this part of the world - are a key driver behind the recent rises in global hunger and one of the leading causes of severe food crises." Robin Willoughby, from Oxfam, said that "it is shocking that after a prolonged decline, this is the third consecutive year of rising hunger. Global action is required urgently. Coordinated global and local action is need so that countries can become more resilient to climate-related disasters”. What is evident is that increasing food insecurity and malnutrition demand attention to ensure we “leave no one behind” in the quest to achieve the SDG goals. Perhaps what is needed is a more conscious recognition of the interrelated, consequential nature of global politics. There needs to be more attention paid towards climate-related disasters and those most affected by these changes. Recognising the global, interrelated nature of our planet, yet intrinsically local nature of many problems, is key to tackling these issues. 

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Image: Angela Sevin @flickr

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