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Opinion

EDITORIAL - A terrible injustice

The Philippine Star

In 15 years, the United Nations aims to eliminate hunger around the world. At this point it looks like an overly ambitious goal, with an estimated 795 million people lacking enough food to lead an active, healthy life.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described hunger as “a terrible injustice” as World Food Day was marked on Oct. 16. You don’t need surveys on self-rated hunger to know that millions of Filipinos suffer from that injustice. Around the country, inadequate nourishment can be seen in impoverished communities.

A recent report said the inadequacy of nutrients in the average Filipino diet stunts physical growth and is a key factor in the rarity of homegrown athletes with the height of American basketball superstars. More than failure to produce athletes with towering height, however, undernourishment and hunger can kill.

The World Food Program reports that 45 percent of deaths in children under the age of five can be traced to poor nutrition. That translates into about 3.1 million children a year, with Filipinos among the fatalities. The Global Hunger Index shows 52 countries suffering from “serious” or “alarming” levels of hunger, with Asia accounting for two-thirds of hungry people.

The UN is aiming to promote a global movement to end hunger by 2030. Achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal of “zero hunger” poses a tough challenge. But there are ways of easing hunger even in the poorest countries where livelihoods are still heavily dependent on agriculture.

This year the effort to end hunger is focused on breaking the cycle of rural poverty through social protection and agriculture. Social protection programs include education, healthcare and financial support to improve access to food among the world’s poor. Social protection is also seen to boost agricultural production, economic activity, resilience, and sustainable use of natural resources.

Social protection programs can mean better infant and maternal nutrition. Such programs increase school attendance, which can raise productivity, according to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization. Women empowerment is also needed. The WFP estimates that the ranks of the world’s hungry could be reduced by up to 150 million if women farmers would have the same access to resources as men.

The Philippines has the conditional cash transfer program, but more can be done particularly in boosting agricultural production to enhance food security. With the right policies and political will, eradicating hunger by 2030 is possible.

ACIRC

FOOD

FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL ORGANIZATION

GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX

HUNGER

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN KI

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL

UNITED NATIONS

WORLD

WORLD FOOD DAY

WORLD FOOD PROGRAM

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