The struggle to end hunger is to some extent a continuation of Millennium Development Goal 1, in particular target 1.c. But Sustainable Development Goal 2, introduced by Agenda 2030, is now more detailed and has a broader scope, outlining some of the component elements that are directly related to hunger, which demand that we achieve food security and improved food nutrition as well as
promote sustainable agriculture.
Hunger can mean very different things in different parts of the world and to different people. As Masset notes,
hunger is a fuzzy concept that can be defined and measured in different ways (Masset, 2011). Hunger can express various degrees of eagerness or craving for food, ranging from simply being
hungry between meals to starving after not having eaten in days. For this reason, many dictionary definitions draw a distinction between day-to-day hungerThe desire, craving or need for food.
more and chronic hungerA weakened disordered condition brought about by prolonged lack of food.
more. This distinction is sometimes explained as the difference between physiological hungerAn un-easy sensation caused by a lack of food.
more and resource-constrained hungerRecurrent and involuntary lack of access to food.
The World Food Programme (WFP) defines hunger as
not having enough to eat to meet energy requirements but also notes that
hunger can lead to malnutrition, but absence of hunger does not imply absence of malnutrition and warns that daily undernourishment, that is, less than 2,100 calories per day2.1 is a very important but less visible form of hunger2.2. The United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME)2.3 estimates for 2012 that almost 7 million children die every year before reaching the age of five and that malnutrition is a key factor in over a third of these deaths (IGME, 2012).
The WFP also explains that prolonged hunger and lack of proper nutrition weakens the immune system, making children in particular especially vulnerable to disease and common infections such as measles and diarrhoea. Requirements for energy and protein will depend on a variety of factors, including age, sex, body size, physical activity and also climate, but the link between hunger and food nutrition is clear. Undernourishment is generally considered the most important challenge for the poor and victims of catastrophes as it may lead to low birth weight, retarded growth, infant and child mortality, and lowered immunity.
One billion people in the world are chronically hungry. One billion people are overweight. Bittman (2009)
Like hunger, food security is a somewhat flexible concept with many definitions available. WFP defines people as being food secure when
they have available access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. Using this definition, food security is comprised of three separate elements: food availability2.4, food access2.5, and food utilization2.6. The WFP food security analysis identified a number of
food insecurity hotspots in 2015. This analysis highlights how food insecurity can be triggered by a range of different natural and human-induced crises: war, political instability, natural disasters or climate. The report identifies crises in Central America, namely El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti and Honduras owing to drought; in sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon, Chad, the Niger, Nigeria and South Sudan due to conflict; in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe owing to drought, and in Malawi because of floods; in the Middle East, Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen owing to conflict; and in Asia, Nepal due to the earthquake in April 20152.7 (see figure 2.1).
There is a direct link between food security, international trade and market access. There are mixed views on whether agricultural trade liberalization helps or hinders food security. Some argue trade liberalization reduces the level of self-sufficiency in food, threatening food security. A counter argument is that a higher degree of liberalization improves food security by reducing consumer prices of food. Thus, the removal of trade restrictions may not unambiguously improve food security.
Border measures such as non-automatic licences and quotas directly influence the availability and affordability of food.
Behind the border measures such as technical non-tariff measures can also have a significant influence on a country’s imports and thus can have a short-term impact upon the country’s food security (UNCTAD, 2016).
An alternate overview of this complex topic can be presented using the Global Hunger Index2.8 compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute at Harvard University (figure 2.2). This index was designed to explicitly address hunger as a multidimensional phenomenon. It is a composite index of four standardized component sub-indicators: undernourishmentThe proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the population.
more; child mortalityThe mortality rate of children under the age of five.
more; and two measures of child undernutrition: child wastingThe proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from wasting, that is, low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition.
more and child stuntingThe proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from stunting, that is, low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition.
more. In contrast to the WFP food security analysis of
food insecurity hotspots, this index, along with identifying crisis points, also identifies regions with longer-term serious structural problems or vulnerabilities.
The map in figure 2.2 shows that in 2015 the Global Hunger Index identifies the situation in Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Madagascar, Sierra Leone and Zambia as alarming. But the index also classifies the situation for large swathes of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia as being serious.
FAO also compiles a State of Food Insecurity IndexFood insecurity is a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.
more that maps out undernourishment. This index measures hunger as the fraction of the population with per capita dietary energy consumption below standard nutritional requirements. The Economist Intelligence Unit in collaboration with DuPont compile a Global Food Security Index that combines 28 indicators covering the elements of affordability, availability, quality and safety. The non-governmental organization ActionAid also compiles a HungerFREE Scorecard Index. This index combines hunger outcomes with anti-hunger policies across four dimensions: legal commitment to the right to food; investments in agriculture; investments in social protection; and hunger outcomes. While all of these indices contribute to the debate, Masset (Masset, 2011) argues that the proliferation of hunger indices is also a source of confusion for policymakers and the public as each index produces a contrasting estimate for the state of hunger in the world.