Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

AID forum uses the power of networking to end hunger in Asia and the Pacific

Despite hunger reduction, getting the poorest to Zero Hunger requires more action

AID forum uses the power of networking to end hunger in Asia and the Pacific

Bangkok, Thailand, 26 Nov 2013 -- Officials of UN agencies, private sector agriculture enterprises and private citizens concerned with global hunger opened today a two-day forum exploring new ways to speed up hunger reduction and achieve food security globally and particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

According to Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “This forum is very important because it is an arena for both UN staff and citizens to discuss our common issues and find solutions to hunger and malnutrition.”

According to the most recent FAO, the number of undernourished people in the world declined from 868 million in 2010-12 to 840 million in 2011-13. While this represents significant progress, the reduction is not enough to achieve the 2015 hunger reduction goal of the 1996 World Food Summit.

“One in every eight people in the world is going hungry, this despite the fact that globally there is enough food for all,” said Konuma in his keynote address at today’s opening session of the AID Forum on Food Security. “Making matters worse, almost 30 per cent of the world’s population suffers from one or more micronutrient deficiencies because their diets are deficient, not only in terms of staple foods, but especially in micronutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, legumes, fruit and animal protein that are essential for healthy growth and development. Sadly this causes some 25 percent, or about 165 million of the world’s children to suffer from stunting.”

 The Asia and Pacific region is of particular concern regarding hunger, because nearly 63 percent of the world’s chronically hungry people, about 525 million, are in this region. In South Asia alone, almost 40 percent of children under the age of five are stunted. Nearly three quarters of the people who have diets that are micronutrient-deficient live in Asia.

Significant reductions in both the number and the proportion of the undernourished have taken place in most countries of Asia and the Pacific, notably in Southeast and East Asia. Progress in South Asia has been slower compared with other parts of the continent. The Asia-Pacific region as a whole appears to be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG1), indeed, in Southeast Asia the MDG1 target of reducing the proportion of hunger by half by 2015 has already been achieved.

Konuma also noted: “Overweight and obesity is an emerging problem in the Asia-Pacific region. Many people in the region now consume excessive amounts of sugar and fats, as well as foods with little or no valuable nutrients, empty calories in other words that lead to obesity and poor health. The UN estimates that 1.4 billion adults in the world are overweight, of which 500 million are obese and face the increased likelihood of developing serious health problems, including cardiovascular diseases,

But, Konuma warned: “The increased magnitude of these problems is undeniably important, but it should not obscure the continued importance of underweight and micro-nutrient deficiencies in the region.”

To speed the reduction in the number and proportion of hungry people in Asia and the Pacific, Konuma urged, “Selecting local crops based on nutritional content in addition to yield and market value can improve the livelihoods of local people and encourage small-scale food processing and preservation techniques. Post-harvest improvements that preserve nutritional value of the local and traditional crops is another area of concern as is the need for development of small-scale agro-enterprises that link small farmers to markets so they can boost their incomes.”   Other hunger reduction recommendations made by Konuma included:

• Inclusive and pro-poor economic growth
• Strengthening public and private sector partnership
• Investment in agricultural public goods and basic agriculture research
• Improved production methods, better communications and infrastructure are all critical