The world can feed itself well - so why are 3b people hungry?
Although the world produces enough food to feed humanity’s population of 7.6 billion, more than 3 billion people cannot afford to maintain a healthy diet, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a UN agency. Although ending hunger by 2030 was a hallmark of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, both hunger and malnutrition remain among the greatest challenges facing our species. As the FAO report finds, we are not on track to achieve zero hunger in the next decade, and we are behind in several other nutrition-related indicators. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has weakened economies and threatened international supply chains, has only hindered global progress further. Measures to contain the disease have limited labour mobility and made access to nutritious food among the most vulnerable more difficult.
At its heart, food security has to be nutrition security; both are matters of public health. In the past century, the arid climate, economic underdevelopment and geopolitical instability that characterise large swathes of the region have left millions of its citizens food-insecure. According to the World Food Programme, 20 million Yemenis are food-insecure. The country also suffers one of the highest rates of child malnutrition. In Syria, fuel and wheat shortages have created a hunger crisis. As with other problems of global magnitude, there will not be one solution, but many. Technology, for instance, will be a critical tool in humanity’s arsenal. This explains the rise of the agricultural technology (AgriTech) sector in recent years. Technology, in the end, will not solve everything. A society-wide resolve to adhere to public health advice and promote healthy, locally sourced food will be integral to long-term solutions. Regional co-operation across governments and civil society will also be critical.