Over 2bn people lack access to safe food: UN

Updated July 16, 2019

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More than a quarter of the world’s population now struggles to eat “safe, nutritious and sufficient food”, according to the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report. — AFP/File
More than a quarter of the world’s population now struggles to eat “safe, nutritious and sufficient food”, according to the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report. — AFP/File

ROME: More than two billion people lack access to healthy food, putting them at risk of health problems — and many of them live in North America or Europe, the United Nations said on Monday, urging governments to “look beyond hunger”.

More than a quarter of the world’s population now struggles to eat “safe, nutritious and sufficient food”, according to the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report.

That includes about 8 percent of people in Europe and North America, according to the annual study, which for the first time includes people affected by “moderate food insecurity” as well as outright hunger.

“We need to look beyond hunger,” said Cindy Holleman, senior economist at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the report’s editor.

“If we just focus on hunger, we’re going to be missing a lot of the growing problems we’re seeing.” Moderate food insecurity affects people who have had to reduce the quality or quantity of what they eat due to lack of money or other resources. It can lead to obesity as well as stunting — a condition that permanently affects children’s mental and physical development.

The findings show governments need to pay more attention to different aspects of food availability instead of just focusing on producing more, said the director-general of the FAO, which compiled the report with four other UN agencies.

“Governments are very much oriented to the production side. They believe that if there is food available, people will eat. In a way, that’s not true,” Jose Graziano da Silva said.

“We are not looking at the distribution, the markets, the behaviour of the people, the culture of the people.” The new data reflects the fact that there are now more obese people in the world than hungry ones — although it also shows that the number of hungry people increased in 2018 for the third year running.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019