The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 is one of the 17 SDGs established by the United Nations in 2015 which aims to achieve zero hunger by 2030. The rise in food insecurity over the years has become a concerning global issue as the number of hungry and undernourished people continues to increase as a result of war, climate anomalies, poverty and increase in population in certain parts of the world. In addition, the increase in international food prices has severely impacted food production costs, particularly in food-exporting countries. As a result, countries have sought ways to protect themselves from price shocks by imposing export restrictions. According to the UN, an estimated 821 million people in the world suffered from food hunger in 2018. Currently, the rise and consequences of the coronavirus adds further challenges to achieving the zero hunger target by 2030 and may not be achieved if we fail to act.
According to UN statistics, over 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, including 8% of the population in North America and Europe. Africa has been identified as the region with the highest rate of undernourishment of approximately 20%. Western Asia follows with more than 12%, and Latin America and the Caribbean with a prevalence of under 7%. Prior to the current pandemic, drought and conflict had been the primary causes of food insecurity around the globe in addition to population increase and poverty. For example, in the horn of Africa, climate anomalies such as drought and rainfall shortage has exacerbated food insecurity, as approximately 80% of the population live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and income. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says drought is considered the most catastrophic natural disaster in the Horn of Africa causing widespread famine while periodic floods also increases the presence of locusts in the region.
Conflict also exacerbates food insecurity, as men are not able to engage in agricultural production. This diverts the resources from uses that would be beneficial to the whole community and as a result the international community has to step in to provide assistance to those affected. Conflict also has a severe impact on the poor leaving them more disadvantaged by displacing them from their homes and their resources. Lastly, the increase in population in developing countries also increases the demand for food production, particularly in places with a low prevalence of contraception use. Furthermore, the increase in rural-urban migration has also impacted food production, especially for farmers through decreased productivity and less land to feed themselves in order to supply and meet the demands of expanding cities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on global food security. According to the September 2020 report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), lockdown measures by individual states have significantly affected the availability of food, causing a dramatic increase in hunger and undernourishment around the world. According to the UN World Food Programme, an additional 130 million people are at risk of facing acute food insecurity by the end of 2020. The lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus have proved to cause disruptions to food supply chains through the closure of restaurants and other food service facilities, loss of income and livelihoods.
They have also widened the inequality gap and brought disruptions to social protection programmes. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 400 million full-time jobs have been lost in the second quarter of 2020 as a result of lockdown measures enforced in a number of countries, further exacerbating inequities by relating to access to basic needs and healthcare. Although lockdown measures have helped contain the spread of the coronavirus, the global food security crisis will further deteriorate as each economy suffers from higher rates of unemployment and poverty.
According to the 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI), worldwide hunger is currently at moderate level . However, a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the highest hunger and undernutrition levels around the globe. Countries considered to have alarming levels of hunger are Chad, Timor-Leste and Madagascar. Hunger levels have also worsened in conflict affected states including Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia , South Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The GHI further estimated that approximately 37 countries will fail to even reach low hunger by 2030, therefore implying that the world is not on track to achieve SDG 2.
For decades, world hunger and the food security crisis has been a challenge for the international community and measures have been taken by world leaders, intergovernmental bodies and non-profit organizations to address this issue. For instance, in 1996, world leaders made a commitment in the Rome Declaration and Plan of Action in the FAO World Food Summit to reduce by half the number of hungry and undernourished people by 2015. Today, there are UN agencies that cater to food security such as the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The WFP has been recognized for its efforts to combat hunger and in conflict affected areas like Yemen in 2018. The WFP has been recognized for its role in enhancing access to contested natural resources. For example, it has helped with engagement of communities by rehabilitating irrigation canals and pipelines in disputed territories along Kyrgyztan’s border with Tajikistan. This resulted in an increase in water supply and agricultural productivity which helped address inter-community conflict.
Overall, it is evident that there has been some progress towards addressing food insecurity around the globe, although we may not be at the pace towards achieving zero hunger by 2030. Addressing global food insecurity requires a multi-faceted approach as there are underlying issues that need to be simultaneously addressed, such as poverty and climate change. The increasingly interdependent nature of the global economy today highlights the need for joint efforts from the international community in addressing this issue. However, there are ways in which we as individuals and states can do our part by minimizing food waste, supporting efforts to alleviate the food security crisis through donations, ensuring fair trade policies and encouraging the use of sustainable resources. It is also important to note that we all have different starting points in life in terms of opportunities which leaves some more disadvantaged than others. Therefore, addressing these inequality gaps by providing conditions for an equitable society are key in helping eradicate poverty and food insecurity around the globe.