Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1376, (11-17 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

How to end hunger

Nabil Gangi sees hopes of ending hunger in our lifetimes, despite the still unprecedented challenges

An Egyptian farmer, harvests wheat on his farm, in Qalubiyah, North Cairo, Egypt. (photo: AP)
A farmer, harvests wheat on his farm, in Qalubiyah, North Cairo, Egypt. (photo: AP)

In September 2015, world leaders agreed on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its Goals which vow to build a world with no one left behind.

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals signed up to under this agenda, Goal One and Goal Two are dedicated to eradicating poverty and ending hunger and malnutrition, respectively. This is no coincidence: if we do not eradicate poverty and hunger, it will be impossible to achieve the remaining goals and the broader objective of leaving no one behind.

Over the past few decades, there has been progress in the fight against hunger in many countries around the world, and not least in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region. However, despite all the efforts that have been undertaken to address hunger, a substantial proportion of the Earth’s population continues to go to bed hungry. 

Moreover, hunger is again on the rise after more than 10 years of decline. More than 800 million people in the world are estimated to have suffered from hunger in 2016, of which 40 million were in the NENA region, more than its proportional share of the world’s population. In addition, almost all the countries in the region are confronted with different forms of malnutrition in which hunger, stunting, wasting and obesity go hand-in-hand, reflecting a wider problem with food systems from production to consumption.

Eradicating hunger in our lifetimes is not a dream, as solutions are emerging through innovative agricultural techniques and improving food-consumption habits. Countries across the world are putting in place comprehensive policies to boost agricultural production and productivity, reduce food loss and waste, provide social protection to the rural and urban poor, and build resilience to shocks, crises and climate change.

In the NENA region, considered to be the most arid in the world and facing enormous challenges, hunger has been on the rise. The challenges include high population growth, growing urbanisation, a limited and fragile natural resource base, poverty, climate change, inadequate agricultural policies, and poor governance and weak infrastructure. It is clear that more mitigating measures are needed to achieve zero hunger.

However, instead we see conflicts and protracted crises becoming endemic and inflicting immense suffering on the populations of the region. This is not only causing it to lag in its development indicators, but is also exacerbating the condition of its population.

The strongly interlinked chain of food insecurity, natural-resource scarcity, unemployment, migration, and the impoverishment of rural areas is affected by the absence of peace and stability and the rise in conflicts and wars in the region. The challenge is not just a problem for the traditional decision-makers responsible for agriculture, food production, transportation and distribution, but extends to the highest policy-makers in whose hands rest decisions of war and peace.  

The NENA region with its enormous human and land resources has the capacity to emerge stronger from the current series of conflicts and crises. But this will require collective action to build a shared vision of peace and prosperity among the region’s member countries. It will also need the support of all its partners, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is committed to doing its part in this endeavour.

May the voices of the 40 million hungry children, women and men in the region be heard and heeded in 2018.

The writer is deputy regional representative for the Near East and North Africa at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

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