According to the World Food Program (WFP) 821 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That is about one in nine people on earth. Even more one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition. The consequence is worse on children. Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five, that is, 3.1 million children each year (World Food Program, 2018). In a world characterized by disturbing rate of hunger, especially in most developing countries, one of the fundamental sustainable development goals has been to combat hunger through zero hunger. The question here is, is zero hunger really something we can achieve in today’s world or is it just an illusion?
Zero hunger has been defined by different scholars, but in simple and general terms it can be define as a world food programme that prevents food wastage and create a world where there is no hunger. According to David Nabarro (2016), hunger and malnutrition weakened people’s health, often leading to the unnecessary grief of a child’s preventable death or the terrible loss of a mother in childbirth.
Challenges of Zero Hunger
Natural disasters, which sometimes are caused from climate change can be a major cause of hunger in different parts of the world. Climate threats are natural events in weather cycles. We have always had hurricanes and droughts, cyclones, flooding and high winds, however, the world is now witnessing a scale of destruction and devastation that is new and frightening.
Recently, Southern Africa was hit by two successive cyclones in March and April 2019, that left a trail of damage and destruction in their path. Cyclone Idai, which started in Mozambique, continued across the land as a Tropical Storm and hit eastern Zimbabwe with heavy rains and strong winds that caused riverine and flash flooding and subsequent deaths, destruction of livelihoods and properties. The United Nations (UN) estimated 1.85 million people in need in Mozambique need food, medical care, etc.
War can also be a major cause of hunger. Some countries and world leaders use food as a weapon for war. This is “the deliberate use of hunger as a weapon or hunger suffered as a consequence of armed conflict” (Messer 1990). In some countries people suffered malnutrition, poverty-related limitations in their access to food, and acute food shortages as a result of armed conflicts. This go a long way to promote hunger and even death in some cases. According to the UN, approximately 779,000 conflict-affected people living in Kachin, Kayin, Rakhine and Shan states Myanmar (or Burma) are vulnerable to severe food insecurity. Nearly 30 percent of children younger than 5 years of age suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to the UN World Food Program (WFP). The 2017 Global Hunger Index reported that approximately 7 percent of children younger than 5 were experiencing acute malnutrition.
Food wastage is another cause of hunger in many countries. Food wastage can simply be defined as a situation where food intended for consumption is discarded along the food supply chain and cannot be used. Although over 800 million people go to bed with an empty stomach, one third of world food, an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted annually (UN Food and Agricultural Organization – FAO, 2014). According to the head of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), food wastage, rather than a shortage of resources, is the key factor behind global hunger.
People waste food through different channels. It can be by large quantities of nutritious edible food often unused or left over, waste from household kitchens and eating establishments, foods that are close to, at or past the “best-before” date which are often discarded by retailers and consumers, fresh produce that deviates from what is considered optimal in terms of shape, size and color, for example, often removed from the supply chain during sorting operations. In Finland where I live, an average of 330–460 million kilos of edible food are wasted in the food chain every year. In this number, households are leading with a total of 120–160 million kilos of originally edible food a year (MTT Agrifood Research Finland).
From the above observations, I think Zero hunger is rather an illusion, not a reality. This is because though the world is trying to eradicate hunger through different zero hunger schemes like encouraging people to freeze food and not waste them, adopting healthy and sustainable diet, and people advocating for zero hunger, etc., factors like natural disasters, climate change and war are forces that are difficult to manage or eradicate.