Dr. Parveen Kumar,
Dr. D. Namgyal
The targets for achieving food security for all were manifested in the form of the ‘Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were to be achieved by 2015. Unfortunately the progress to achieve the targets was not uniform; even some of the countries missed them with a huge margin. The MDG’s were followed by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are to be achieved by 2030. The ‘Zero Hunger’ goal of ‘SDG 2030’ aims not simply to ‘eradicate hunger’, but to ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round (SDG Target 2.1) and to “eradicate all forms of malnutrition” (SDG Target 2.2). It is quite encouraging that due to collective and coordinated efforts, the prevalence of child stunting has decreased significantly over the past 20 years, but overweight and obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases are rapidly on the rise. This calls for new ways of thinking about hunger and food insecurity and their consequences for nutrition. We must also have to recognize that there are many people who, while not “hungry” in the sense that they suffer physical discomfort caused by severe lack of dietary energy, may still be food insecure. They have access to food to meet their energy requirements, yet are uncertain that it will last, and may be forced to reduce the quality and/or quantity of the food they eat in order to get by. This moderate level of severity of food insecurity can contribute to various forms of malnutrition and has serious consequences for health and well-being.
The latest edition of the report on ‘State of Food Security and Nutrition’ reveals that the decline in hunger the world had enjoyed for over a decade was at an end, and that hunger was again on the rise. This year, the report shows that the global level of the prevalence of undernourishment has stabilized; however, the absolute number of undernourished people continues to increase although slowly. More than 820 million people in the world are still hungry today, underscoring the immense challenge of achieving the Zero Hunger target by 2030. Hunger is rising in almost all sub regions of Africa and, to a lesser extent, in Latin America and Western Asia. In this regard a great progress has been seen in Southern Asia in the last five years, but the prevalence of undernourishment in this sub region is still the highest in Asia. Another worrisome fact is that about 2 billion people in the world experience moderate or severe food insecurity. The lack of regular access to nutritious and sufficient food that these people experience puts them at greater risk of malnutrition and poor health. Although primarily concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, moderate or severe food insecurity also affects 8 percent of the population in Northern America and Europe. In every continent, the prevalence rate is slightly higher among women than men.
Long time back, an idea of a global organization to work for and to ensure food security for all was floated. However, this idea wasn’t put into practice until 1905. That is when an international conference was first held in Rome, due to the efforts of US agriculturalist David Lubin. This conference resulted in the creation of an agency known as the International Institute of Agriculture which can be called as a precursor of the present Food and Agriculture Organization. After World War II the then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided that an agency needed to be formed to replace the International Institute of Agriculture. He called a meeting which was held at Qubec, Canada in 1945 to discuss and advance that idea. On October 16th, 1945, the Constitution of the Food and Agriculture Organization was drafted. When the United Nations was created to replace the ineffective League of Nations on October 24th, 1945, then the Food and Agriculture Organization was placed under its powers. Since its formation, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has been working to raise levels of nutrition, improve agricultural productivity at all levels, enhance the lives of rural populations and contribute to the growth of the world economy. It also provides assistance to countries changing their agricultural policy, to aid regions out of famine situations, to help implement appropriate technology and facilitate a neutral environment to discuss issues around food production.
At the FAO’s 20th session in Rome, Italy, in November 1979 the conference called for the observance of World Food Day on October 16, 1981, and on the same date each year. The Hungarian Delegation, led by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food Dr. Pál Romány, played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the World Food Day worldwide. The UN General Assembly ratified this decision on December 5, 1980, and urged governments and international, national and local organizations to contribute to observing World Food Day. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. World Food Day has been held each year since 1981. This year’s World Food Day will mark the 73rd anniversary of FAO’s founding.
Each year has a different theme. Every year since 1981, World Food Day has had a theme to help people focus their attention on a particular aspect of global hunger. For instance, in 1981, the theme was “Food Comes First.” In 2014, it was “Family Farming.” In 2015, the theme was Feeding the world Caring for the earth’. In 2016, the theme was “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too. This year the theme of the World Food Day is ‘Our Actions Are Our Future; Healthy Diets for A #Zero Hunger World’
This 16th day of October celebrated every year world wide as the ‘World Food Day’ is a day not only when people should not just celebrate the founding of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization but it should be a day of action at the ground level. It should be the day when people along with the institutions have to act collectively in a campaign mode to make the world free of hunger and malnutrition ultimately leading to the accomplishment of goals of SDG 2030.
(The authors are Scientist and Head, Krishi Vigyan Kendra-Leh.)
Dr. Parveen Kumar,