Joint statement by the Principals of FAO, WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and UN OCHA
As principals of the United Nations humanitarian system, we have all looked into the blank stare and nearly lifeless body of a badly malnourished child, whose ever-so shallow breathing is often the only sign of life.
We have all been deeply affected when a child could not be saved.
But we have also witnessed the tireless work that United Nations staff and partners do every day – often in dangerous environments – so that children on the brink of death can recover and so that hungry children lacking enough nutritious food never fall to that level.
Every year, the United Nations provides 10 million children suffering from acute malnutrition (“wasting”) with services they need to recover, including nutrition treatment, treatment of infections such as diarrheal diseases, hygiene and sanitation services, and access to clean water and the nutritious diets needed for heathy growth. Two million malnourished pregnant women and new mothers received food supplementation to improve their nutrition and that of their baby.
Furthermore, the United Nations also supports millions more children every year so that they do not fall into a state of malnutrition, by promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and adequate access to healthy and nutritious diet at all times.
Yet, after decades of falling, the number of hungry people in the world has increased in recent years. Now they number 820 million. In addition, nearly 50 million of children under the age of five are “wasted” – that is children suffering from acute malnutrition, marked by their being underweight for their height. And 149 million are “stunted” – that is suffering stunted growth in height and development caused by malnutrition.
For many children, undernutrition begins in the womb due to mothers not being able to access the healthy diets they need. The children who survive these risky pregnancies and the first critical months of life are more likely to have some form of malnutrition – being stunted or wasted – and millions suffer both forms at the same time. These children are much more likely to die before the age of 5 because their immunity to infections is weakened by a lack of nutrients. Those who survive may go on to suffer poor growth and mental development.
In many cases, their cognitive development is permanently impaired, and they perform worse in school and are less productive as adults. They are at greater risk of living a life in poverty, which means their children will be more likely to suffer the same fate. Breaking the intergenerational transmission cycle of malnutrition is key to eradicating malnutrition in all its forms and to reach Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
The United Nations is working to put a more unified response in place. To draw attention to the growing problem of malnutrition and bring the international community together for an integrated response, the United Nations will launch the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World tomorrow to share the latest information on the number of individuals in the world suffering from hunger and more importantly the number of children still wasted and stunted.
The United Nations is learning from existing studies to improve the tools we have to treat and prevent malnutrition. We are supporting research to ensure improvements to existing treatment guidelines are based on the best possible evidence.
In the light of that, the World Health Organization will publish comprehensive, updated guidelines on treating acute malnutrition (“wasting”) by the middle of 2021. We are working to build environments that ensure access to healthy and nutritious diets at all times and ensure families with acutely malnourished children can access life-saving treatments, including in their communities and outreach clinics so they do not have to travel up to hundreds of miles to get a child to a clinic.
More importantly, the United Nations is also working to prevent malnutrition with increased efforts, especially for households with infants and children, in livelihood development, social protection measures, and accessible health services that can result, increased consumption of healthy and nutritious diets, and healthy growth and development.
With conflict driving much of the growth in hunger and malnutrition in recent years, we are streamlining treatment and prevention for acute malnutrition in complex emergencies. Recognizing, however, that the larger burden of malnutrition in terms of absolute numbers affected is outside of conflict, we are also working with governments to enhance prevention and treatment programmes for all forms of malnutrition.
Before the end of the year, we will launch the UN Global Plan of Action on Wasting to underscore our commitment to global action over the next decade to stop malnutrition before it occurs and to give children the chance to reach their full potential, while ensuring that all children and women suffering from acute malnutrition receive the treatment they need.
To succeed, the United Nations is ready to support the member states to further develop and implement their policies, programmes and strategies, to address the burden of all forms of malnutrition. For success, we need the world’s commitment to be matched by the required funding. It is a good investment – for every dollar spent on preventing child malnutrition there is a US$16 return in reduced health costs and increase productivity.
The future of millions of children hangs in the balance. We must not let them down.
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019
SAFEGUARDING AGAINST ECONOMIC SLOWDOWNS AND DOWNTURNS
FAO, 2019 :: 239 pages
:: Analysis of household and individual level data from selected countries across all regions shows that food insecurity plays an important role as a determinant of many different forms of malnutrition. In upper-middle and high-income countries in particular, living in a food-insecure household is a predictor of obesity in school-age children, adolescents, and adults.
:: Previous editions of this report show how conflict and climate variability and extremes are exacerbating the above trends. This year the report shows that the uneven pace of economic recovery and continuing poor economic performance in many countries after the 2008–2009 global economic downturn are also undermining efforts to end hunger and malnutrition. Episodes of financial stress, elevated trade tensions and tightening financial conditions are contributing to uncertain global economic prospects.
:: Hunger has increased in many countries where the economy has slowed down or contracted, mostly in middle-income countries. Furthermore, economic shocks are contributing to prolonging and worsening the severity of food crises caused primarily by conflict and climate shocks.
:: Out of 65 countries where recent adverse impacts of economic slowdowns and downturns on food security and nutrition have been strongest, 52 countries rely heavily on primary commodity exports and/or imports.
:: Economic slowdowns or downturns disproportionally undermine food security and nutrition where inequalities are greater. Income inequality increases the likelihood of severe food insecurity, and this effect is 20 percent higher for low-income countries compared with middle income countries. Income and wealth inequalities are also closely associated with undernutrition, while more complex inequality patterns are associated with obesity.
:: To safeguard food security and nutrition, it is critical to already have in place economic and social policies to counteract the effects of adverse economic cycles when they arrive, while avoiding cuts in essential services, such as health care and education, at all costs. In the longer term, however, this will only be possible through fostering pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation, particularly in countries that rely heavily on trade in primary commodities.
:: To ensure that structural transformation is pro-poor and inclusive requires integrating food security and nutrition concerns into poverty reduction efforts, while ensuring that reducing gender inequalities and social exclusion of population groups is either the means to, or outcome of, improved food security and nutrition.
World hunger is still not going down after three years and obesity is still growing – UN report
More than 820 million people are hungry globally
15 July 2019 News release
An estimated 820 million people did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year, which is the third year of increase in a row. This underscores the immense challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, says a new edition of the annual The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report released today.
The pace of progress in halving the number of children who are stunted and in reducing the number of babies born with low birth weight is too slow, which also puts the SDG 2 nutrition targets further out of reach, according to the report.
At the same time, adding to these challenges, overweight and obesity continue to increase in all regions, particularly among school-age children and adults.
The chances of being food insecure are higher for women than men in every continent, with the largest gap in Latin America.
“Our actions to tackle these troubling trends will have to be bolder, not only in scale but also in terms of multisectoral collaboration,” the heads of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) urged in their joint foreword to the report.
Hunger is increasing in many countries where economic growth is lagging, particularly in middle-income countries and those that rely heavily on international primary commodity trade. The annual UN report also found that income inequality is rising in many of the countries where hunger is on the rise, making it even more difficult for the poor, vulnerable or marginalized to cope with economic slowdowns and downturns.
“We must foster pro-poor and inclusive structural transformation focusing on people and placing communities at the centre to reduce economic vulnerabilities and set ourselves on track to ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition,” the UN leaders said.
Key facts and figures
:: Number of hungry people in the world in 2018: 821.6 million (or 1 in 9 people) in Asia: 513.9 million
in Africa: 256.1million
in Latin America and the Caribbean: 42.5 million
:: Number of moderately or severely food insecure: 2 billion (26.4%)
:: Babies born with low birth weight: 20.5 million (one in seven)
:: Children under 5 affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 148.9 million (21.9%)
:: Children under 5 affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 49.5 million (7.3%)
:: Children under 5 who are overweight (high weight-for-height): 40 million (5.9%)
:: School-age children and adolescents who are overweight: 338 million
:: Adults who are obese: 672 million (13% or 1 in 8 adults)