BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - World governments will need to lift 185,000 people out of hunger each day for the next 12 years in order to meet global goals to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, a United Nations expert said on Wednesday.
The calculation was made by Kostas Stamoulis, assistant director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who spoke to reporters at a global food conference in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok.
“Not only do we have to reduce (hunger), but we have to do faster than we were doing it in the past,” he said.
Ending world hunger is one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015 by member nations that pledged to achieve them within 15 years.
But the latest figures from the United Nations showed that hunger has increased for three years in a row, with 821 million people going hungry in 2017.
“We are back to the level we were 10 years ago. So we backtracked,” said Stamoulis.
“This cannot go on.”
If the situation is not addressed urgently, countries will suffer, said Shenggen Fan, director general of the Washington-based International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI), which co-organized the Bangkok conference with FAO.
“Children will continue to be stunted. Their physical and mental ability will be affected,” said Fan. “That will affect economic growth.”
Both Fan and Stamoulis urged governments to invest in “accelerators” - public polices aided by investment and new technologies that can speed up progress in tackling hunger.
Countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil and Ethiopia have achieved significant reductions in malnutrition, hunger and poverty using these measures, they said.
For example, Bangladesh’s polices supporting agricultural growth, family planning and access to drinking water helped it achieve one of the fastest reductions in child underweight and stunting, they said.
Brazil and Ethiopia, meanwhile, targeted investments in agricultural research and development and social protection programs.
Some of the same countries struggling to end hunger are also dealing with the “growing problem” of obesity, said Stamoulis.
About 2.1 billion people globally are overweight or obese, and national life expectancy rates will fall if this trend continues, he said.
“The reason is that some of the foods loaded with calories, sugar, salt and fat are cheap,” said Stamoulis.
“And diets based on these kinds of food components are cheaper than a nutritious diet with fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, etc.”
Editing by Jared Ferrie. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit news.trust.org