Progress in reducing undernourishment in the Asia Pacific region has slowed tremendously and the number of hungry people has barely changed during the past two years, according to a report released by four United Nations agencies on Friday.
In a report entitled Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a “colossal human loss” to Asia and the Pacific and its economies if countries in the region do not recommit themselves to ending all forms of malnutrition and attaining zero hunger by 2030.
“What is becoming increasingly clear is that the world cannot meet the 2030 target of zero hunger if Asia and the Pacific – the world’s most populous region – is not leading the way. It is a hard reality but one that must be faced with a united determination to turn things around,” the four UN agencies said in the report.
This is the first time that the four UN agencies have jointly published such a report. The joint efforts underline what they described as the “urgency of the present situation.”
It said the joint efforts represent a united front and call to action in urging governments to show greater resolve in meeting previous commitments to end hunger and improve food security and nutrition across the region.
The UN agencies noted that the Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s malnourished children as malnutrition covers a broad spectrum and affects people of all ages – ranging from severe under-nutrition to overweight and obesity – but children, in particular, continue to bear the burden.
Accordingly, one child in every four below the age of 5, or 79-million children in the region, suffers from stunting and 34-million children are wasting, 12 million of whom suffer from severe acute malnutrition with a drastically increased risk of death.
“The sad reality is that an unacceptably large number of children in the region continue to face the multiple burden of malnutrition despite decades of economic growth. This is a colossal human loss given the association between undernutrition and poor cognitive development, with severe lifelong consequences for a statement even as they noted that the situation also results in economic losses to a nation’s economy due to missed opportunities of human potential.
While the latest global figures indicate an overall rise in the prevalence of hunger worldwide, the 2018 regional report points out that stagnation in combating hunger and malnutrition in Asia and the Pacific is also a major concern due to the large numbers of people involved.
The Asia and Pacific region accounts for well over half of the world’s undernourished or nearly half a billion people (486 million).
Some of the drivers and determinants of malnutrition cited in the report are the rising incidents of climate-related disasters, limited or poor access to safe food and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and persistent hunger and rising obesity.
In conclusion, the four UN offices have urged all stakeholders to make greater efforts to accelerate progress toward the goals of a healthy and hunger-free Asia and the Pacific.
“The sense of urgency cannot be overstated,” they said.