ROME – The UN is hosting a summit in New York this week to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions.
The goals range from halving extreme poverty and reducing the proportion of hungry people by half, to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015.
Most threatened MDG
WFP, naturally, is focused on MDG 1, the goal that aims to tackle poverty and hunger. The target as regards hunger is to go from 20% of the world population hungry in 1990 to 10% by 2015.
According to the latest figures, we are now at 16%. There was fairly good progress up to the middle of the last decade but then the global food price crisis happened, followed by the financial crisis and then the global economic slowdown. These events have severely compromised progress.
This is worrying not only in itself but also because hunger undermines all of the other Millennium Development Goals. Healthcare interventions don’t work when people are hungry and children cannot learn when they are hungry. In fact, if you look closely you will see that hunger is an important factor for at least six of the MDGs.
Addressing hunger is fundamental if the world is going to reach the other MDGs and any progress on alleviating hunger will have a knock-on, multiplier effect on a range of goals.
Knowledge and technology
The good news is that we have the knowledge and the technology to reach the goal of halving the proportion of hungry people in the world. There is little debate about that. Here, for example, are five cost-effective interventions that we know work:
- Providing nutritious foods for mothers and children
- School meals
- Food fortification and micronutrient supplements;
- Food-for-work or cash-for-work programmes;
- Food, cash or voucher transfers.
Examples such as Brazil, where the undernourished dropped from 10% to 6% of the population between 2001 and 2005 (learn more), show that huge achievements are perfectly possible when there is focus, cooperation and determination.
Reaching the hunger MDG will require both more resources and more political will. But no one should say it can’t be done.