Efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition have advanced significantly since 2000. Ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition for all, however, will require continued and focused efforts, especially in Asia and Africa. More investments in agriculture, including government spending and aid, are needed to increase capacity for agricultural productivity.
- The proportion of undernourished people worldwide declined from 15 per cent in 2000-2002 to 11 per cent in 2014-2016. About 793 million people are undernourished globally, down from 930 million people during the same period.
- In 2016, an estimated 155 million children under 5 years of age were stunted (too short for their age, a result of chronic malnutrition). Globally, the stunting rate fell from 33 per cent in 2000 to 23 per cent in 2016. Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounted for three quarters of all stunted children that year.
- In 2016, an estimated 52 million children under 5 years of age worldwide suffered from wasting (with a low weight for their height, usually the result of an acute and significant food shortage and/or disease). The global wasting rate in 2016 was 7.7 per cent, with the highest rate (15.4 per cent) in Southern Asia. At the other end of the spectrum, overweight and obesity affected 41 million children under 5 years of age worldwide (6 per cent) in 2016.
- Ending hunger demands sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. One aspect of that effort is maintaining the genetic diversity of plants and animals, which is crucial for agriculture and food production. In 2016, 4.7 million samples of seeds and other plant genetic material for food and agriculture were preserved in 602 gene banks throughout 82 countries and 14 regional and international centres — a 2 per cent increase since 2014. Animal genetic material has been cryoconserved, but only for 15 per cent of national breed populations, according to information obtained from 128 countries. The stored genetic material is sufficient to reconstitute only 7 per cent of national breed populations should they become extinct. As of February 2017, 20 per cent of local breeds were classified as at risk.
- Increased investments are needed to enhance capacity for agricultural productivity. However, the global agriculture orientation index — defined as agriculture’s share of government expenditure divided by the sector’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) — fell from 0.38 in 2001 to 0.24 in 2013 and to 0.21 in 2015.
- The share of sector-allocable aid allocated to agriculture from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) fell from nearly 20 per cent in the mid-1980s to 7 per cent in the late 1990s, where it remained through 2015. The decline reflects a shift away from aid for financing infrastructure and production towards a greater focus on social sectors.
- In 2016, 21 countries experienced high or moderately high domestic prices, relative to their historic levels, for one or more staple cereal food commodities. Thirteen of those countries were in sub-Saharan Africa. The main causes of high prices were declines in domestic output, currency depreciation and insecurity. Localized increases in fuel prices also drove food prices higher.
- Some progress has been made in preventing distortions in world agricultural markets. The global agricultural export subsidies were reduced by 94 per cent from 2000 to 2014. In December 2015, members of the World Trade Organization adopted a ministerial decision on eliminating export subsidies for agricultural products and restraining export measures that have a similar effect.
Source: Report of the Secretary-General, "Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals", E/2017/66
- Goal 2 aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. It also commits to universal access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food at all times of the year. This will require sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices, equal access to land, technology and markets and international cooperation on investments in infrastructure and technology to boost agricultural productivity.
- The fight against hunger has progressed over the past 15 years. Globally, the prevalence of hunger has declined, from 15 per cent according to figures for 2000 to 2002, to 11 per cent according to figures for 2014 to 2016. However, more than 790 million people worldwide still lack regular access to adequate amounts of dietary energy. If current trends continue, the zero hunger target will be largely missed by 2030. Many countries that failed to reach the target set as part of the Millennium Development Goals, of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, have faced natural and human-induced disasters or political instability, resulting in protracted crises, with increased vulnerability and food insecurity affecting large parts of the population. The persistence of hunger is no longer simply a matter of food availability. More and better data on access to food can enable the tracking of progress and guide interventions to fight food insecurity and malnutrition.
- Globally, in 2014, nearly 1 in 4 children under the age of 5, an estimated total of 159 million children, had stunted growth. Stunting is defined as inadequate height for age, an indicator of the cumulative effects of undernutrition and infection. Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounted for three quarters of the children under 5 with stunted growth in 2014. Another aspect of child malnutrition is the growing share of children who are overweight, a problem affecting nearly every region. Globally, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of children under the age of 5 who were overweight grew from 5.1 per cent to 6.1 per cent.
- Ending hunger and malnutrition relies heavily on sustainable food production systems and resilient agricultural practices. Genetic diversity in livestock breeds is crucial for agriculture and food production since it allows for the raising of farm animals in a wide range of environments and provides the basis for diverse products and services. Globally, 20 per cent of local livestock breeds, meaning breeds reported in only one country, are at risk of extinction. Another 16 per cent of breeds are stable, and the status of the remaining local breeds is unknown owing to a lack of data. The figures exclude livestock breeds that have already become extinct.
- To increase the productive capacity of agriculture, more investment is needed, both public and private, from domestic and foreign sources. However, recent trends in government spending are not favourable. The agriculture orientation index, defined as agriculture’s share of government expenditures divided by the sector’s share of gross domestic product (GDP), fell globally from 0.37 to 0.25 between 2001 and 2013. The decline in the index was interrupted only temporarily during the food price crisis of 2006 to 2008, when governments increased agricultural spending.
- Since the late 1990s, the percentage of aid for supporting agriculture in developing countries has been stable at around 8 per cent, when measured as a share of sector-allocable aid from member countries of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This has decreased, from a peak of 20 per cent in the mid-1980s, as a result of donors beginning to focus more on improving governance, building social capital and bolstering fragile States.
- One of the targets for Goal 2 calls for correcting and preventing distortions in world agricultural markets, including the elimination of all forms of agricultural export subsidies. Those subsidies mask market signals, reduce competitiveness and can lead to environmental damage and the inequitable distribution of benefits. That said, some progress is being made, with members of the World Trade Organization adopting a ministerial decision, in December 2015, on eliminating export subsidies for agricultural products and restraining export measures that have an equivalent effect.