In 2012, at the United Nations (UN) Conferences on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, world representatives created the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The purpose of creating SDGs was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world, according to the UN Development Programme. There are 17 SDGs that the UN hopes to meet by 2030, the second of which is Zero Hunger. More than 800 million people around the world are hungry. The United Nations’s second Sustainable Development Goal, Zero Hunger, aims to end world hunger by 2030.
Hunger is not caused by food shortage alone, but by a combination of natural, social, and political forces. Currently, natural resources that are necessary for human survival—like freshwater, the ocean, forests, soils, and more—are dwindling. Climate change is contributing to the degradation of precious resources, as severe weather events, like droughts, become more common and affect harvests, leading to less food for human consumption. Poverty and inequality are also two drivers of hunger, affecting who can buy food, as well as what kind of food, and how much, is available. Hunger is also a product of war and conflict. During periods of unrest, a country’s economy and infrastructure can become severely damaged. This negatively affects civilian access to food by either driving up food prices, interfering with food production, or forcing people from their homes. Some governments and military groups have even used starvation as a war tactic, cutting off civilians from their food supply. In 2018, the UN declared this tactic a war crime.
The total number of persons suffering from severe food insecurity has been on the rise since 2015, and there are still millions of malnourished children. The economic slowdown and the disruption of food value chains caused by the pandemic are exacerbating hunger and food insecurity. In addition, the upsurge in desert locusts remains alarming in East Africa and Yemen, where 35 million persons already experience acute food insecurity. Owing to the pandemic, some 370 million schoolchildren are missing the free school meals that they rely on. Measures to strengthen food production and distribution systems must be taken immediately to mitigate and minimize the impacts of the pandemic.
The world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. If recent trends continue, the number of people affected by hunger would surpass 840 million by 2030. According to the World Food Programme, 135 million suffer from acute hunger largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change and economic downturns. The COVID-19 pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.