On October 16, when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) celebrates the anniversary of its founding, the world celebrates World Food Day. Last year, the UN World Food Program received the Nobel Peace Prize for its “efforts to fight hunger, contribute to peace in conflict zones and play a leading role in stopping the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict. Yet for many countries, including the Philippines, the war on hunger continues even in the absence of war or armed conflict.
In 2020, the Philippines ranked 69th out of 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI). Global hunger, represented by a GHI score of 18.2, was at a moderate level, down from the 2000 GHI score of 28.2, classified as severe. The Philippines’ GHI at 19.9 was worse than the global average, although normatively it is in the upper end of the moderate hunger range and just slightly below the severe hunger range. from 20.0 to 34.9.
The GHI 2020 did not even take into account the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic which triggered a severe recession, created massive unemployment and exacerbated the situation of hunger in the poorest and marginalized sectors of each affected country. In the second year that the celebration of World Food Day has been eclipsed by the pandemic scourge, this year’s theme appears to be overwhelmingly optimistic: “Our actions are our future: better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life.
To appreciate the global context of hunger in the Philippines, consider the following harsh realities. “About 821 million people suffer from chronic undernourishment, more than 785 million recorded in 2015. Almost 99% of the undernourished live in developing countries. About 60 percent of the world’s hungry people are women. Almost 20 million infants are born with a low birth weight each year, 96.5 percent of them in developing countries. About 50 percent of all child deaths are under the age of 5 due to undernutrition. “
A Cabinet-level Zero Hunger Working Group has adopted a comprehensive framework aligned with achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Three priority programs are underway: first, rice production and distribution fortified with iron through school feeding to prevent micronutrient deficiencies; second, the implementation of forecast-based financing in disaster-prone areas to maintain quality food and nutrition in anticipation of the challenges of climate change; and third, the organization of a Large Scale Enterprise Network (SBN) initially composed of 13 large private business organizations committed to investing in improved nutrition.
Leveraging its comparative advantage in logistics and supply chain management, WFP supports government efforts to deliver food, health items and other essential non-food items in the context of the pandemic of COVID-19.
Indeed, “our actions are our future”. By demanding only nutritious, sustainably produced food and responsibly reducing food loss and waste, we are helping to secure a future where zero hunger ceases to be a formidable goal.
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