Now is time to walk the talk and feed the starving world

18 October 2018 - 08:42
By Nokuthula Vilakazi
Now is time to walk the talk and feed the starving world.
Image: 123RF/nito500 Now is time to walk the talk and feed the starving world.

The 2018 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report reveals a sad and urgent reality: World hunger is on the rise again. The report shows a third consecutive year of increase, with the number of undernourished people worldwide increasing to nearly
821million last year.

Additionally, an estimated 1.9billion people are overweight, with this proportion of the global population facing the accompanying risks of illness, disease and death based on their diet and health status.

These alarming figures come at a time when the world has the capacity to produce 17% more food per person today than it did 30 years ago. The situation in SA is no better, as poverty is seemingly on the increase.

Statistics SA's 2016 general household survey shows 7.4million people reported experiencing hunger.

One wonders how this is possible, as SA is among the top 10 most food-secure countries on the continent.

This is determined mostly by analysing the percentage of malnourished children and the extent of external food aid. Moreover, the government has tried to support children born from unemployed households by providing a support grant of R380 a month per child.

Food security - where people can feed themselves with dignity, have sufficient culturally available food that can be easily accessed, with enough food to meet the individual's dietary needs - only becomes a dream for many people living in poverty.

Clearly, the social grants are just not enough for indigent families facing malnutrition as this is a multi-faceted condition that needs multiple interventions. Malnutrition comes about when the body is in a state where energy or nutrient intake is either deficient, excessive, or is imbalanced, resulting in undernutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age).

The reality is more families are finding it hard to afford foods from all the basic food groups necessary for health such as:

Bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles;

Vegetables and fruit;

Milk, yoghurt, cheese; and

Legumes, lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and nuts.

Many families survive on the energy-dense starchy foods such as maize meal, cooking oil and potatoes, which unfortunately have no nutritional benefits when consumed on their own in excess.

How do we ensure food is delivered to everyone, especially those who need it the most? Are we doing enough? Do we have hopes for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 - "end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture" - by 2030?

No one seems to have the answer, but at least one thing is certain: taking action is no longer just an option; it has become a necessity. This means a lot of effort has to go into improving food production systems, by having more people working more closely together, globally and locally.

Governments also need to develop policies focused on promoting connections between social protection, sustainable agriculture, nutrition, health, and education.

Individuals also have an urgent role to play - we must all use natural resources more wisely to produce nutritious diets and reduce waste.

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