A new framework and focus for food security and nutrition

01/11/2017

Should we be focusing on whether people are getting enough food or good food? Common sense would say both. Indeed the definition of food security is that it exists “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Yet, until recently there has been a disconnect, with different actors looking at different parts of the puzzle but not necessarily seeing the links between agricultural production, nutrition and access to food. Conscious of the need to connect the dots, FAO has completely recast its annual hunger report. The new State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 (SOFI) aims to provide the conceptual framework needed to measure and tackle the many facets of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2. It is clearly inadequate to focus on food sufficiency and capacity at country level, when there are countries that suffer from problems of both obesity and malnutrition. Not to mention cases where there may be, for example, an obese parent and a stunted child in the same household. To gain these vital insights, FAO has reached out not only to its traditional partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) and International fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), but also to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The joint FAO–WHO International Conferences on Nutrition (http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/icn2/en/?%13%03=) have laid the groundwork for this new collaboration, bringing nutrition and disease-related aspects into the foreground. UNICEF has further enriched the picture with precious data on child nutrition, and strengthening the socio-economic analysis. WFP’s front-line knowledge of conflict through its operational work in emergency situations has given extra depth to this year’s report in light of its important theme, and IFAD has provided analysis regarding investment and infrastructure needs and the disruptions currently witnessed in conflict-affected regions. But this is just the beginning. This edition of SOFI is a first, but important, step in the right direction. Important data is still lacking, and although current data enable us to make certain assumptions within a country, and to draw comparisons across countries, it is rarely possible to link the data to a same data source. Ideally we would need the same household survey to cover all aspects of food security. In addition, FAO does not carry out the data collection – it relies on statistics provided by countries. However it is supporting country efforts and providing guidance and training to underpin this more comprehensive monitoring required by the SDG process. It is running a major workshop this week in Bangkok to tackle the obstacles being encountered in Asia-Pacific countries (http://www.fao.org/asiapacific/news/detail-events/en/c/1034119/). Monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals is crucial. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017 provides an unprecedented example of inter-agency collaboration to support this effort and solid arguments for further increasing collaboration and investment.