APAC’s undernourishment reduction rate suggests most nations will miss UN’s 2030 zero hunger goal

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The second UN SDG is to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
The second UN SDG is to achieve zero hunger by 2030.
Only two countries out of the 19 being monitored in Asia-Pacific will meet the UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of achieving zero hunger by 2030 if prevalence of undernourishment rates (PoU) continue to reduce at 2010-15 rates.

And only nine of the 19 would achieve the target based on their best historical reduction rates between 1991-2015.

The data was revealed in the the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 2016 Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Insecurity – Investing in a Zero Hunger Generation​ report.

The report considers rates in 19 countries (China, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) which achieved the Millennium Development Goal of halving PoU by 2014-16.

The report makes clear the region is characterised by considerable fluctuations in reductions of PoU.

“Only some countries experienced sustained reductions with no reversals, including China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, while the paths taken by many more countries were a combination of short-lived rapid declines and slower reductions, with frequent reversals in between,” ​it states.

Progress lapse

“For example, Bangladesh and Cambodia experienced reversals (increases in PoU) for some years early on in the 1990s, followed by periods of rapid declines and marked slowdowns since 2006.”

The results show that the rate of reduction for the best period between 1991-2010 was typically twice as good (or more) than performance over the past five years.

“This is reassuring in that a large proportion of the countries had indeed made impressive performances in one period or the other. On the downside, the results also show that the rate of progress could easily lapse to low levels or could even become negative, resulting in erosion of gains made in the good years,”​ adds the report.

It makes clear that achieving the SDG zero hunger target will not be possible without reversing these recent slowdowns.

“A simple extrapolation exercise of these trends showed that only nine countries would reach the target of eliminating hunger by 2030 even with their best historical rates; and it will take more than 25 years for six countries to achieve that goal,”​ it adds.

“The outlook looks worse with the most recent (2010–15) experience considering that the recent performance did not match their best performance in a large number of countries. In this scenario, only two countries would achieve the target in the next 15 years and 12 countries would require more than 25 years.”

Despite these published statements, FAO officials declined to reveal to NutraIngredients-Asia which countries were set to hit or miss the target, claiming: While we feel it is OK to state the results of an analysis that show reduction rates are slowing down in general, it is much trickier to start honing in on the performance of individual countries without doing a broader assessment of a range of indicators to make a more nuanced judgment.”

Ample opportunity

However, the FAO still believes that achieving the SDG is within reach, and is not solely dependent on economic growth.

“The fact that there is substantial variability in performance (both across countries and across time within any given country) also means there is ample opportunity to build on experiences within the region to accelerate progress.

“There is now fairly robust evidence to suggest that while economic growth is a necessary condition to deliver improved nutritional and other social outcomes, it is certainly not sufficient. In general, growth in agriculture is far more important for reduced undernourishment than growth of industry or services,”​ the report notes.

According to Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO assistant director-general and regional representative, most countries in the region are spending too little on agricultural research.

“In order to meet both the zero hunger goal and ensure everyone is well nourished in Asia-Pacific by 2030, we will, collectively, need to put our money where our mouths are to ensure we can meet these twin challenges,”​ she said, adding FAO's availability to provide technical expertise to help member countries.

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