Understanding hunger is complicated. This has various connotations – from desire to consume food, not having two square meals, not having a defined calorie for a day, and subjective feeling of food insecurity, among others. From a metrics point of view, prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) is used to report our progress on Sustainable Development Goal 2.1 of Zero Hunger. This is an estimate of the proportion of the population whose habitual food consumption is insufficient to provide the dietary energy levels that are required to maintain a normal active and healthy life. How this is calculated is again not easy and would require detailed explanation.
Between 720 and 811 million people in the world went hungry in 2020, according to the UN report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. In proportional terms, outpacing population growth, some 9.9 per cent of people globally are estimated to have been undernourished last year, up from 8.4 per cent in 2019. Similar increase has happened for India, from 14 per cent to 15.3 per cent.
Food security is impacted by a complex web of factors such as climate variability, economic slowdowns and downturns, conflict, poverty and inequality. These drivers create multiple impacts by affecting food systems and food environments and thereby affect our food security – availability, access, utilisation and stability. These drivers have impacts on attributes of diets – quantity, quality, diversity, safety and adequacy, nutrition and health outcomes. The COVID-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it have led to an unprecedented economic downturn. The high cost of healthy diets coupled with persistent high levels of income inequality put healthy diets out of reach in every region of the world, especially amongst the poor.
The gender gap in the prevalence of food insecurity has grown even larger in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity being 10 percent higher among women than men in 2020, compared with 6 percent in 2019. All these heightens the challenge of achieving the Zero Hunger target by 2030. The report estimates SDG Goal 2 (Zero Hunger by 2030) will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people. Of these 660 million, some 30 million may be linked to the pandemic’s lasting effects.
Given the current situation, a number of actions must be taken immediately to guarantee food availability, production and supply be sustained and classified as essential services. It will be important for governments, donors, and NGOs to work closely to ensure social protection measures, such as cash and food transfers, health care, and employment schemes reach the most vulnerable.
Lack of secure land tenure and resulting food insecurity are persistent issues for rural communities, amongst marginalized groups. Formal and informal education on agriculture and nutrition needs to be sufficiently tailored to local conditions. 55 percent of the world’s population is not covered by any social protection programs. We need to improve its coverage with quality.
We must design an integrated response to the current crisis and move forward in ways that support the transformation of the current food system to one that is more inclusive, sustainable, and resilient. A One Health approach, based on a recognition of the interconnections between humans, animals, plants, and their shared environment, as well as the role of fair trade relations, would help restore a healthy planet, and end hunger.
(The views and opinions expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the organization)
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NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.