UN report warns Asia-Pacific is falling behind Zero Hunger targets, as millions remain malnourished

UN report warns Asia-Pacific is falling behind Zero Hunger targets, as millions remain malnourished

According to a recent United Nations report, hundreds of millions of children and adults in Asia are undernourished in large cities due to the lack of sustainable, nutrition-sensitive and inclusive urban planning.

Although the Asia-Pacific region has the world’s highest urbanisation rate, more than half the world’s 821 million undernourished people live in the region.

In addition, the Asia-Pacific region is home to over half of the world’s malnourished children. Across the region 79 million children suffer from stunting and 34 million are wasting.

The report warned that 12 million children in the region suffer from acute malnutrition, with a significantly increased risk of death.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) all commented:

“The sad reality is that an unacceptably large number of children in the region continue to face the multiple burden of malnutrition despite decades of economic growth. This is a colossal human loss given the association between undernutrition and poor cognitive development, with severe lifelong consequences for the future of these children”

They added:

“Progress in reducing undernourishment has slowed tremendously. As migration from rural to urban areas continues apace, particularly involving poorer families, urban malnutrition is a challenge facing many countries.”

The report by the four UN agencies noted that due to conflict and climate change, world hunger rates increased in 2017 for a third consecutive year. Statistics show that more than one in eight adults is now obese and the Asia-Pacific region has an increasing prevalence of childhood obesity.

In the past, urbanisation used to be a sign of economic and social transformation correlated with better health, nutrition and higher standards of living. However, the report warned:

“If not managed well, rapid urbanisation can also lead to dysfunctional food systems, resulting in undernutrition and obesity occurring within the same city or even the same household.”

Slums are exacerbating the problem as a third of the region’s urban population lives in slums with limited access to safety nets and welfare benefits. This becomes a challenge for many people in terms of nutrition, food security and livelihoods.

Informal food markets and street vendors in Thailand and Malaysia are increasingly attacked for selling cheap, unhealthy meals to the urban poor.

The United Nations report also added:

"What is becoming increasingly clear is that the world cannot meet the 2030 target of zero hunger if Asia and the Pacific – the world’s most populous region – is not leading the way. It is a hard reality but one that must be faced with a united determination to turn things around.”

The AIDF Asia Summit will return in 2019. 

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