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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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16 October 2018


World Food Day 2018

Opening Statement

It is an honour to welcome all of you, and in particular our two special guests for the celebration of World Food Day 2018: Queen Letizia of Spain and King Letsie the Third of Lesotho

Today, FAO brings together its two Goodwill Ambassadors for Nutrition to send a clear message.  

Hunger is certainly the worst manifestation of malnutrition / that a human being can face.

But the Sustainable Development Goal number 2 is not limited to the battle against hunger.

It addresses all forms of malnutrition and also agriculture sustainable development.

This is the Zero Hunger concept.

Zero Hunger is not just about feeding people, but nourishing people.

It aims to provide everyone with the necessary nutrients for a healthy life.

And for that, we need to improve at the same time  the production and consumption of healthy food in a sustainable way. 

The latest FAO numbers show clearly that hunger is not the only big nutrition problem that is threatening healthy lives nowadays.

Anaemia and obesity, for instance, are also very serious challenges.

In 2017, one in three women in reproductive age was anaemic.

22 (twenty two) percent of all children under five years old, equivalent to 151 (one hundred and fifty-one) million children, were stunted.

An additional 50 million children  were affected by wasting, putting them at a higher risk of mortality.

At the same time, overweight affected 38 million children under the five years of age.

More than 2 billion adult people were overweight, out of them 672 (six hundred seventy two) million were considered obese.

And the majority of these obese people, about 60 percent of them, are women.

Obesity is affecting all countries, both developed and developing ones.

We are witnessing the globalization of obesity.

Eight of the 20 countries  with the fastest rising rates of adult obesity  are in Africa.

If we don’t find concrete ways to stop this, the number of obese  will soon be as high as  the number of undernourished people in the world.

And this global pandemic of obesity is happening at a huge socio-economic cost.

The global economic impact of obesity is about USD 2 trillion per year (2.8% of the global GDP).

This is equivalent  to the impact of smoking  or the impact of armed conflicts.

Let me repeat: the most costly man made problems  in the world today are armed conflicts, smoking and obesity.


The main reason for the increase in obesity rates is that the current food systems are not delivering healthy diets.

It is growing very fast the consumption of industrialized and processed food  that are very high in trans fats, sugar, salt and chemical additives.

This kind of food is cheaper, and also easier to prepare than fresh food.

But this industrialized food is not providing people with the necessary nutrients for a healthy life.

A large proportion of the world population today is affected by micronutrient deficiencies, often defined as the “hidden hunger”.

We need to put in place food systems that provide healthy and nutritious food that are accessible and affordable for everyone.

Obesity, for instance, must be considered as a public issue, not as an individual problem.

We cannot only blame the mother and their family if a child is obese.

Over the last years, FAO has been strengthening its focus on nutritious and healthy diets.

In 2014, we jointly organized with the World Health Organization (WHO) the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2).

FAO and WHO are now leading the implementation  of the Decade of Action on Nutrition 2016-2025.

We are supporting several countries to address the multiple burdens of malnutrition  from different perspectives and actions.

This includes the adoption of legislation to improve the labelling of products, and also the ban of harmful ingredients from our food; the introduction of nutrition in the primary school curriculum;

the adoption of methods  to avoid food loss and waste; and also stimulate the consumption of fresh food produced locally from family farming.

Today, to celebrate world food day 2018, we want to hear from our special guests and panellists on how to build upon our knowledge and commitment, and move forward towards the promotion of healthy diets.


As you all know, hunger and malnutrition have increased in the last three years.

And people frequently ask me if I really believe that it is possible to eradicate hunger by 2030.

My answer is yes, I do.

I do because my home country Brazil eliminated hunger in less than 10 years, from almost 11 percent of the population in 2001 to about 2 percent in 2010.

It was possible due to the strong political commitment of former President Lula, and the implementation of a permanent food security policy translated into the successful programme Zero Hunger.

We also have the examples of other countries like Peru and China, which also reduced hunger significantly in a short period of time in recent years.

What we need / is stronger political will and more financial support.

We know what needs to be done.

And we have to act now.

Achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 is still possible if we all work together.

Thank you for your attention