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Hunger Uptick in Africa Can be Reversed

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva has expressed optimism that the recent uptick in global hunger levels will be reversed and that Zero Hunger remains attainable – but added that doing so will depend on boosting the resilience of communities in Africa, where current hunger trends are particularly worrying.

The most recent UN global report on world hunger found that, after decades of decline, the number of hungry people on the planet went back up in 2016, largely due to conflict, climate-related shocks and economic slowdowns.

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Trends in Africa helped drive that increase. Some 23 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa suffered from chronic hunger in 2016, while in East Africa, 34 percent of people did, according to the report.

“Even in some countries that have been successful at reducing food insecurity faced a setback, especially due to prolonged drought caused by the impacts of El Niño,” Graziano da Silva noted today in a speech at an event on Zero Hunger held during the FAO Regional Conference for Africa (19-23 February, Khartoum).

However, the FAO Director-General also expressed optimism that an already-emerging and energetic response by the international community to recent negative hunger trends will help turn the tide.

“I firmly believe that 2016 was a point outside the curve, and not a reversal tendency,” he argued.

Causes For Optimism

One reason for optimism is that political will to redouble anti-hunger efforts is running higher than ever, Graziano da Silva said, as evidenced by the issue’s high prominence during the recent African Union Summit attended by the continent’s top leaders as well as UN Secretary-General António Gutteres – FAO today launched “Achieving Zero Hunger in Africa by 2025. Taking stock of progress”, which contains the proceedings of the African Union High-Level Meeting on the topic.

Two other factors provide additional cause for optimism, according to the FAO Director-General.

For one, the Green Climate Fund has become operationally and is now channelling funding to developing countries to help them respond to climate change, including its impacts on food insecurity. Additionally, there are strong signs that the world economy is recovering, which will create favorable conditions for development.

“Zero Hunger is attainable. It depends on us,” the FAO Director-General exhorted his listeners.

“It is time to redouble our efforts, and push for political commitment and timely, concrete actions such as never seen before,” he said.

In her statement to the FAO Regional Conference, African Union Commissioner of Rural Economy and Agriculture, Josefa Sacko, said that on the Commitment of Ending Hunger by 2025, “we are lagging behind and there is still a lot of work to be done going forward on ending hunger by 2025,” however also noting there was cause for optimism.

“We have the opportunity to pick out some key lessons, exchange views on what might impede our progress in achieving food and nutrition security and continue to strengthen coordination and partnerships among us,” Sacko said. She mentioned the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund as a way to help move things forward.

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