Bangkok, Thailand, 30 Apr 2013 -- The United Nations launched the Zero Hunger Challenge in Asia and the Pacific here yesterday evening before heads of governments and UN agencies as well as ministers and national leaders. Speakers called on governments, farmers, scientists, business, civil society and consumers to join in the struggle to end hunger in the region where a majority of the world’s undernourished people live.
“We cannot rest while so many people go hungry in a world where there is enough food for all,” United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the launch ceremony which was attended by the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense and Security of Timor-Leste, Mr. Kay Rala Xanana Gusmão, the Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, Mr. Gordon Darcy Lilo, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand, Mr. Yukol Limlamthong.
“Sustainable development and inclusive growth will not happen on empty stomachs,” said Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).
“It is unacceptable that in the 21st century, with all of our technological and agricultural expertise, more than 870 million people globally wake up hungry every morning, try to find the energy to make a living for their families through the day, and then still go to bed hungry at night,” the ESCAP Executive Secretary added.
Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said: “Despite efforts to reduce hunger, and even with the rapid economic growth seen in much of Asia, progress in eradicating hunger has been very slow. “One in every eight people in Asia-Pacific lacks the most basic human right because they are victims of chronic hunger. The vast majority live in developing countries and they are increasingly vulnerable to food price increases and external shocks.”
But Konuma also said: “I believe the MDG Goal of reducing the proportion of extreme hunger by half by 2015 and eradicating hunger within our lifetime are achievable goals if we work harder, doubling our effort as a team.”
Konuma warned that micronutrient malnutrition, or so-called “hidden hunger” is also affecting an additional two billion people worldwide with serious public health problems, especially for children in developing countries.
FAO estimates that the world would need to increase food production by 60 percent or by 77 percent in developing countries alone by the year 2050 to meet the needs of population growth. This has to be achieved from arable land, which has very little potential for future expansion. There is also a declining amount of water available to agriculture.
Konuma called on the global community to address a number of critical challenges such as the declining investment in agriculture, stagnation of agricultural productivity growth, and high post-harvest losses and food waste. He warned of the negative impacts of climate change and natural disasters. and the increasing competition between food production and bio-energy production as additional challenges that need to be resolved.
“Our history shows that the Asia and the Pacific Region has successfully reduced the proportion of hunger from 34 percent in 1970 to 17 percent in 2000 through the Green Revolution. Zero Hunger is not a dream, but our obligation to new generations to come.” Konuma said.
The global Zero Hunger Challenge was proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012. It has five objectives:
1. 100 per cent access to food for all, all year round;
2. end to stunting among children under two because of a lack of nutrients during pregnancy and in the early days of life;
3. ensuring sustainable food systems;
4. doubling smallholder productivity and income; and
5. reduction in food loss, at the farmer level, through lack of suitable storage and reduction of waste of food by retailers and consumers.