In a new report released today, five UN agencies warns that the long-term declining trend in undernourishment has come to a halt, with 815 million people living in hunger for the year 2016. In The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, the agencies notes that conflict, often compounded by climate-related shocks, is the major factor in the increase.
It is important to highlight that despite this sobering news, the world has made progress in ending hunger and malnutrition. “Most countries have achieved significant 25-year gains in reducing hunger,” according to the report. The number of children in the world who are malnourished, as evidenced by stunting (height for age), has been reduced globally from 29.5 percent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016. This shows us that many interventions are working.
Yet, there are still 155 million children who are stunted, a situation we know affects their long-term cognitive development and prospects for the future. Three out of four stunted children live in conflict zones. The vast majority of people living in hunger — 60 percent — live in countries affected by conflict.
Though The Hunger Project does not work in conflict-affected states, our women-focused and community-led approach is pertinent well beyond the 16,000 communities where we implement programs. As our colleagues within the Movement for Community-led Development have shown, women-centered, community-led methodologies can be put to work in a variety of contexts, to adapt to the global threats of protracted conflict and climate change. In The Hunger Project’s programs in Bangladesh, for example, we have seen through a partnership with the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) that our community-led approach builds social cohesion, which can reduce violence in communities. Indeed, the new report notes that pathways forward include “community-based approaches that help build relationships and social cohesion, improving aspirations, confidence and trust,” as well as “interventions that contribute to building the capacity of institutions and local actors, improving governance to deliver equitable services.”
The figures outlined in the report, while alarming, should not undermine our efforts. Hunger in most countries continues to decline. And, we can learn from the interventions that are working to find new ways to build inclusive, cohesive and resilient communities where women are empowered. We will continue to advocate for women-centered and community-led approaches with partner organizations and governments worldwide: this is how, together, we can achieve the commitments the world has made with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The report was published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).