World Food Day is celebrated every year around the world on 16 October in honor of the date of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organizations concerned with food security, including the World Food Programme and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Currently, more than 815 million people do not have enough to eat. Some 155 million children under the age of five – 23 per cent – are chronically malnourished and stunted and may endure the effects of it for the rest of their lives. One in two infant deaths worldwide are caused by hunger.
Since its very early years of existence, the UN has made tackling hunger and malnutrition one of its key priorities. Here are some of the ways the organization is contributing today to achieving zero hunger tomorrow:
1. Help small farmers produce more with less
Eighty per cent of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is managed by smallholders (up to 10 hectares). For years, FAO has been providing them with training, improved seed supplies, agricultural tools and fertilizer to ensure higher yields.
2. Provide emergency food rations in humanitarian crises
Following natural disasters, or in humanitarian crises created by conflict or health emergencies, the World Food Programme (WFP) delivers relief food items, often overcoming tremendous logistical challenges. In 2017, 91 million people received food assistance across 83 countries, and 18 million children received school meals across 60 countries.
One way people can support directly this effort is through the Share The Meal smartphone application, which has already enabled over 27.3 million meals to be “shared” with just one click in the Middle East, Bangladesh, Haiti, South Sudan and the Lake Chad region. As smartphone users outnumber hungry children by 20 to 1, the UN believes this has the potential to make a real difference.
3. End malnutrition
In parallel, to tackle nutrition deficiencies worldwide, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) work hand-in-hand by: providing emergency care and therapeutic food to children and pregnant or lactating women in need; opening community-based treatment centres (CMAM); carrying out capacity building efforts in medical centres worldwide; and training mothers on best feeding practices.
4. Focus on local economic systems
In delivering assistance, the UN is careful to ensure that local economies are supported and fueled whenever possible. WFP has pledged to source 10 percent of its food purchases from small farms.
In addition, WFP’s Purchase For Progress (P4P) initiative encourages national governments and the private sector to buy food in ways that benefit smallholders. Covering 35 countries, P4P has changed how more than 1 million small farmers interact
5. Develop vulnerability projections and analysis
WFP’s Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) enables the UN to monitor food security situations and market fluctuations in countries across the world. This supports decision-making for programmes worldwide.
In addition, launched at the climate change conference in Paris in 2015, the UN’s food insecurity and climate change vulnerability map examines how climate change could increase hunger across the globe.
6. Empower rural women and girls
Women comprise an average of 43 percent of the agricultural labour force of developing countries and nearly 50 percent in Eastern and Southeastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
If women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent, lifting 100-150 million people out of hunger. That is why the UN, across its various initiatives, places a particular emphasis on empowering rural women and girls and providing skills training.
7. Raise awareness and galvanize change
Achieving Zero Hunger is the second of the ambitious 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by 193 Member States in 2015. To meet the various targets by 2030, the UN is raising awareness with governments, the private sector, individuals and farmers.
“We know what needs to be done,” said FAO’s Graziano da Silva. “And we have to act now.”
Work cited: UN report in 2016 under sustainable economic plan.