The Asia-Pacific region has achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG-1c) by reducing the proportion of people suffering from hunger by half by 2015, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced. “This is an historic achievement, a great milestone of which the Asia-Pacific region should be proud,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative. “Looking at the region as a whole, in the MDG base year of 1990, around 24 percent of the population was undernourished. Today, that percentage has been cut in half to 12 percent and thus has met the MDG hunger goal.”
Some of the greatest reductions in the proportion of those hungry during that 25 year period were seen in China (60.9 percent), Thailand (78.7 percent), Viet Nam (75.8 percent) and Indonesia (61.6 percent).
However, while the region as a whole has achieved the MDG proportional hunger target, the achievements are uneven at subregional levels.
“Unfortunately, South Asia has not managed to achieve the same level of success as East Asia and South-East Asia – the two subregions that achieved the greatest proportional drop in undernourished,” Konuma said. “And while overall the Asia-Pacific region achieved the largest reduction in the absolute number of undernourished people in the world – some 236 million people – this was not sufficient to meet the additional target set by the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) to reduce the absolute numbers by half.”
In total, there are still 490 million people in Asia and the Pacific who suffer from chronic hunger – more than any other region of the world.
“While we acknowledge the region’s achievements today, we cannot and must not think everything is alright. It’s not,” said Konuma. “With 12 percent of our population still undernourished we must turn our full attention to them. I call upon all of us to increase our efforts by taking up the Zero Hunger Challenge. We can make hunger a relic of the past – we can achieve zero hunger if we try.”
Konuma pointed out there will be obstacles. While the world presently produces enough food for all, the challenge of making sure everyone gets enough to eat will become even greater as the world population is expected to grow to more than nine billion people by 2050 – with rural to urban migration continuing apace. Other challenges such as obesity, especially in Pacific Islands, and the hidden hunger of poor nutrition must be addressed.
Critical to achieving zero hunger will be support to family and smallholder farmers who produce the bulk of our food yet often remain in poverty and vulnerable to their own food insecurity.
“As we move beyond the MDGs and toward the Sustainable Development Goals, policy commitments, institutional and technological innovations, combined with effective social protection measures will be required, in an overall framework of sustainable growth that is more equitably shared and environmentally sustainable,” said Konuma.
The full 2015 regional report is available for download – FAO Regional Overview of Food Insecurity Asia and the Pacific: Towards a Food Secure Asia and the Pacific