Hunger Overview

Hunger Overview

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According to the FAO report titled: The State of Food and Agriculture 2013-Food Systems for Better Nutrition,

•    The present report argues that improving nutrition and reducing economic and social costs must begin with food and agriculture. Addressing malnutrition requires a multisectoral approach that includes complementary interventions in food systems, public health and education. Within a multisectoral approach, food systems offer many opportunities for interventions leading to improved diets and better nutrition. Agricultural production and productivity growth remain essential for better nutrition, but more can be done. Both traditional and modern supply chains offer risks and opportunities for achieving better nutrition and more sustainable food systems.

•    Evidence from India indicates that the rural–urban divide in malnutrition may hold for adults. Guha-Khasnobis and James (2010) found a prevalence of adult underweight of around 23 percent in the slum areas of eight Indian cities, while the prevalence in rural areas in the same states was close to 40 percent.

•    For India, Stein and Qaim (2007) estimated that the combined economic cost of iron-deficiency anaemia, zinc deficiency, vitamin A deficiency and iodine deficiency amounts to around 2.5 percent of GDP.

•    Household surveys from Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Mozambique and the Philippines find that dietary diversity is strongly associated with household consumption expenditure (Hoddinott and Yohannes, 2002).

•    Fortifying rice served in school lunches in India led to statistically significant declines in iron-deficiency anaemia, from 30 percent to 15 percent for the treatment group, while anaemia remained essentially unchanged for the control group (Moretti et al., 2006).

•    Agricultural productivity growth was associated with reductions in the prevalence of child malnutrition in most countries, including India, during the period of rapid adoption of Green Revolution technologies and up until the early 1990s. Since 1992, however, agricultural growth has not been associated with improved nutrition among children in many Indian states (Headey, 2011).

•    Various explanations have been offered for the persistence of high levels of undernutrition in India. These include economic inequality, gender inequality, poor hygiene, lack of access to clean water and other factors beyond the performance of the agriculture sector. However, the phenomenon remains largely unexplained and additional research is needed (Deaton and Drèze, 2009; Headey, 2011).

•    Evidence from farm input subsidy programmes in India and Malawi indicates that they can significantly boost agricultural production and farmers’ incomes, albeit at a high budgetary cost (HLPE, 2012), but the impact of such policies on nutrition has not been well studied.

•    Adding micronutrients to soils in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan enhanced yields by 20–80 percent and a further 70–120 percent when micronutrients were added in conjunction with nitrogen and phosphorous (Dar, 2004).

•    Sales of processed and packaged foods are growing quickly in developing countries. In India, small independent grocers called kirana stores, ubiquitous in urban and rural areas, sold over 53 percent of packaged foods at the retail level in 2010.

•    A study from India demonstrated that women who used a groundnut decorticator were able to process around 14 times more groundnuts and used significantly less physical effort than those doing so by hand. Similarly, a new hand tool designed for making ridges for vegetable crops allowed women to double the number of rows finished in one hour (Singh, Puna Ji Gite and Agarwal, 2006). Such innovations in technology may open up opportunities for women to earn higher incomes or to use their time (and increased income) for added attention to the family.

•    FAO’s most recent estimates indicate that 12.5 percent of the world’s population (868 million people) are undernourished in terms of energy intake, yet these figures represent only a fraction of the global burden of malnutrition. An estimated 26 percent of the world’s children are stunted, 2 billion people suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiencies and 1.4 billion people are overweight, of whom 500 million are obese.

•    Since 1990–92, the estimated number of undernourished people in developing countries has declined from 980 million to 852 million and the prevalence of undernourishment has declined from 23 percent to 15 percent (FAO, IFAD and WFP, 2012).

•    Between 1990 and 2011, the prevalence of stunting in developing countries declined by an estimated 16.6 percentage points, from 44.6 percent to 28 percent. There are 160 million stunted children in developing countries today, compared with 248 million in 1990 (UNICEF, WHO and The World Bank, 2012).

•    The global prevalence of combined overweight and obesity has risen in all regions, with prevalence among adults increasing from 24 percent to 34 percent between 1980 and 2008. The prevalence of obesity has increased even faster, doubling from 6 percent to 12 percent.

•    The social burden due to child and maternal malnutrition has declined almost by half during the last two decades, while that due to overweight and obesity has almost doubled, yet the former remains by far the greater problem, especially in low-income countries. Undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies must therefore continue to be the highest nutrition priority for the global community in the immediate future.

•    The social cost of malnutrition, measured by the “disability-adjusted life years” lost to child and maternal malnutrition and to overweight and obesity, are very high. Beyond the social cost, the cost to the global economy caused by malnutrition, as a result of lost productivity and direct health care costs, could account for as much as 5 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP), equivalent to US$3.5 trillion per year or US$500 per person. The costs of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are estimated at 2–3 percent of global GDP, equivalent to US$1.4–2.1 trillion per year.

•    Partial estimates approach suggests that malnutrition in all its forms may impose a cost of US$2.8–3.5 trillion, equivalent to 4–5 percent of global GDP, or US$400–500 per person. Global losses in economic productivity due to undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies have been estimated at more than 10 percent of lifetime earnings and 2–3 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) (World Bank, 2006).

•    A recent study estimates a cumulative output loss due to non-communicable diseases, for which overweight and obesity are key risk factors, of US$47 trillion over the next two decades; on an annual basis and assuming a 5 percent rate of inflation, this is equivalent to about US$1.4 trillion in 2010 (Bloom et al., 2011).

•    Research showed that investing US$1.2 billion annually in micronutrient supplements, food fortification and biofortification of staple crops for five years would generate annual benefits of US$15.3 billion, a benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 13 to 1, and would result in better health, fewer deaths and increased future earnings (Micronutrient Initiative, 2009).

•    It has been estimated that world food and feed prices would be 35–65 percent higher, average caloric availability 11–13 percent lower and the percentage of children malnourished in developing countries 6–8 percent higher had the Green Revolution not occurred (Evenson and Rosegrant, 2003).

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