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Opinion: A world without hunger is everyone’s business – let's put things right

The picture is clear: without adequate food and proper nutrition, a child will not live, learn and grow up to lead a healthy and productive life.

Caitriona O'Neill and William Gallagher

GOOD NEWS MADE rare headlines in the international press last week. Over the last decade, the number of hungry people in the world has declined by more than 100 million, according to the latest report on the State of Food Insecurity in the World.

The bad news… 805 million people are still chronically undernourished. In a world of more than plenty, one in nine people still suffer from the tragic consequences of hunger.

One of the most critical consequences of hunger is child undernutrition. When a child is undernourished before the age of five, neither the body nor the brain can develop to their full potential. The damage can be irreversible…

The country that child lives in is also badly affected. According to a recent study – the groundbreaking Cost of Hunger in Africa study – the annual costs associated with child undernutrition in Africa are alarming – ranging from 1.9 to 16.5% of GDP. This translates to, in the case of Ethiopia, US$4.7 billion.

Undernutrition halts development

The picture is clear: without adequate food and proper nutrition, a child will not live, learn and grow up to lead a healthy and productive life. This is why child undernutrition remains one of the biggest impediments for social and economic development.

“We know this has to change,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2012, as he launched the Zero Hunger Challenge. “How can we rest while so many people are hungry in the world while there is enough food for all?”

The Zero Hunger Challenge is the Secretary-General’s vision for a future where all people enjoy their fundamental right to food.

The Challenge consists of five elements:

  1. Ensuring no child less than two years old is stunted, which means providing universal access to nutritious food in the 1,000-day window of opportunity between the start of pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
  2. Enabling all people to access the food they need at all times through nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems, marketing, decent and productive employment, social protection, targeted safety nets and food assistance.
  3. Ensuring sustainable food systems through standards of sustainability for all farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives, governments, unions and civil society.
  4. Reducing rural poverty and improving wellbeing through encouraging decent work, and increasing smallholders’ income, empowering women, small farmers, fishers, pastoralists and others.
  5. Minimising food losses during storage and transport, and eliminating waste of food by retailers and consumers by empowering consumer choice through appropriate labeling and encouraging commitments from producers, retailers and consumers within all nations.

It has been two years since Secretary-General Ban launched what he called his vision for a future where all people enjoy a fundamental right to food. Since then, a broad range of countries – more than 100 – as well as business, organisations and individuals have taken bold actions to eliminate hunger.

Achieving Zero Hunger 

A world without hunger is everyone’s business. And the Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge has indeed galvanised political support and encouraged governments, international organisations, civil society and businesses to work together in new transformative and multi-stakeholder partnerships to achieve Zero Hunger.

When Zero Hunger champions come together this week during the 69th General Assembly, in the high level event Delivering Zero Hunger – Demonstrating Impact, co-hosted by Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, they will be sharing the bold and comprehensive actions they have taken to move the world toward a future without hunger: from stepping up private and public investment in sustainable and climate smart agriculture and food systems, to handling the threat of unprecedented humanitarian crises. From working with expectant mothers and mothers of infants to prevent and reduce chronic child under- and malnutrition through community-based nutrition, and sustainable land management in South America to improving access to markets, finance and technical support to small holder farmers in Africa.

The Delivering Zero Hunger – Demonstrating Impact is co-hosted by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland, Charles Flanagan, and Secretary of Social Development of Mexico, Rosario Robles Berlanga, as well as the principals from three food-based UN organisations: Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Dr Kanayo F Nwanze and Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin.

Delivering Zero Hunger – Demonstrating Impact will showcase how champions for the Zero Hunger movement have set the highest bar and have started to put things right by ending chronic hunger. It will provide an important platform for new commitments from all of us to ensure that hunger will be ended in our lifetime.

Watch the UN event live here from 6.1pm Irish time

Signed: 

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Charles Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Ireland
Rosario Robles Berlanga, Secretary of Social Development of Mexico
José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of FAO
Mr Kanayo F Nwanze, President of IFAD
Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP

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About the author:

Caitriona O'Neill and William Gallagher

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