Can the World Reach the SDG Target of Zero Hunger by 2030? New 2020 SOFI Report
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The world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030, according to the 2020 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, released in mid-July.
The latest edition of the report estimates that almost 690 million people, or 8.9 percent of the global population, were undernourished in 2019. Compared to 2014, this number was up by nearly 60 million people, and it could rise to more than 840 million by 2030. In addition, the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity in 2019 was close to 750 million, and an estimated 2 billion people did not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food. The impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could further worsen the situation, adding between 83 and 132 million people to the total number of undernourished in the world in 2020.
Overall, the 2020 SOFI Report confirms what previous editions of the report have found: the decline in hunger that the world had enjoyed for several decades ended in 2015.
Behind this trend of increasing food insecurity and hunger lie conflict, climate-related shocks and extreme weather events, and economic challenges and downturns. Other reports, such as the Global Report on Food Crises, also identify conflict and climate change as major factors in continuing and increasing food insecurity. Despite significant progress in poverty reduction in recent decades, almost 10 percent of the global population still lives on USD 1.90 per day or less. Much of this extreme poverty remains concentrated in Africa south of the Sahara and Southern Asia. In addition, many regions rely heavily on commodity imports and exports, making them more vulnerable to external shocks. Finally, large inequalities remain in terms of income, assets, and resources, and many countries lack robust social safety nets needed to ensure food access and overall food security for poor and vulnerable populations.
Smallholder producers and households that rely on their own food production are most heavily impacted by all of these factors. In addition, countries with rapid population growth and poor education and healthcare systems tend to have a higher prevalence of hunger.
The 2020 SOFI Report finds that the majority of undernourished people in the world – 381 million – live in Asia, which supports findings from previous editions of the report. In Africa, more than 250 million people are undernourished, much of them concentrated in Africa south of the Sahara.
In terms of percentage of the total population undernourished (PoU), Africa ranked highest at 19.1 percent in 2019, up from 17.6 percent in 2014. The number of undernourished people is growing more quickly in Africa than anywhere else in the world.
In contrast, while Asia has the highest total number of undernourished people, PoU in this region was 8.3 percent in 2019, below the global average of 8.9 percent. Asia has also successfully reduced the overall number of people suffering from hunger by 8 million since 2015.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, almost 48 million people were undernourished in 2019. This is up by 9 million since 2015. The region’s PoU ranked below Africa and Asia at 7.4 percent.
What do these numbers mean for food security and hunger in 2030, the target date for the SDG goal of zero hunger? According to the SOFI Report, if current trends continue, Africa’s PoU could reach as high as 25.7 percent in 2030. In this scenario, Africa would overtake Asia in terms of the most undernourished people in the world, with 433 million people undernourished (51.5 percent of the global total).
Latin America and the Caribbean is forecast to see its PoU increase to 9.5 percent. This means 19 million more undernourished people in 2030 than there were in 2019.
Expectations for Asia are more mixed. Eastern and Central Asia are on track to meet the zero hunger target (not taking into consideration the potential impacts of COVID-19). Southern and Southeastern Asia are both making progress in reducing hunger but are still not expected to meet the SDG target, and trends in Western Asia are currently heading in the direction of increased hunger by 2030. All in all, Asia as a whole is not expected to meet the SDG goal of zero hunger in the next decade.
In terms of nutrition, the world has made progress on reducing child stunting and low birthweight and increasing exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. However, the prevalence of child wasting remains high and is not forecast to reach the SDG targets of 5 percent by 20205 and 3 percent by 2030. In addition, child overweight and adult obesity both continue to rise in nearly all areas of the world.
There are important links between dietary quality and the foregoing food security and nutrition outcomes. For many people in every region of the world, a healthy diet (defined by variety/diversity, adequacy, moderation and overall balance) is simply unaffordable. To address this problem, policy makers, researchers, and private sector stakeholders will need to work together in a food-systems approach to make nutritious foods more widely available and affordable. Such an approach would include increasing productivity and diversification in food production, reducing pre- and post-harvest losses, and enacting effective agricultural, financial, and trade policies that protect and strengthen food systems at the local, regional, and global level.
The 2020 SOFI Report was launched on July 14 with a virtual seminar hosted by FAO North America and IFPRI.