World Food Day is observed on October 16 every year to raise awareness and encourage food security. For 75 years, the day has been observed every year in more than 150 countries in an effort to sensitize people on the issues behind poverty and hunger.
The day also marks the foundation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) on October 16, 1945. To mark the day a large number of events and outreach activities are conducted by businesses, NGOs, the media, general public and governments to promote awareness among the general public of those who suffer from hunger.
World Food Day is a time to reflect on the important role of food in our lives, and the people around the world who lack access to food. A basic theme is chosen every year to highlight the day. This year’s theme, “Grow, Nourish, and Sustain Together” focuses on providing meals and ensuring food security to the most vulnerable sections of the people during the pandemic crisis.
The World Food Program has been in the vanguard of the struggle against world hunger. In recognition of its services, the WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year. In a statement, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said: “Where there is conflict, there is hunger. And where there is hunger, there is conflict. Today is a reminder that food security, peace and stability go together. Without peace, we cannot achieve our global goal of zero hunger; and while there is hunger, we will never have a peaceful world.”
World Food Day 2020 was observed in extraordinary circumstances as countries around the world struggle to tackle the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is necessary to add here that the pre-corona global food security had already been in a precarious position—an estimated 135 million people in 55 countries around the world faced high levels of hunger in 2019, according to the 2020 Global Report on Food Crises. We must remember that while climate change and other events, such as pandemics, are major factors that worsen food crises, wasteful land farming and land use are also major multipliers.
World Food Day 2020 pointedly underlined the need for global cooperation and solidarity to help the most vulnerable to recover from the crisis. The day came as a clarion call to countries to make food systems more resilient and robust so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks and deliver healthy and sustainable diets for all.
Organizations, like Action Against Hunger, are active in nearly 50 countries working to treat acute malnutrition in children, which is responsible for nearly half of all child deaths, and now threatens to claim the lives of 10,000 more children each month due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19.
Before COVID-19, nearly 690 million people globally faced hunger. Now, the UN predicts an additional 130 million people could face concerning levels of hunger by the end of the year. Action Against Hunger is working to promote a streamlined approach to treating malnourished children – one that involves a single program for all children, regardless of the severity of their condition – which new evidence shows is just as effective as traditional approaches, at a significant reduction in cost. Current strategies reach fewer than one-third of children in need.
“The world needs a better way to deal with hunger,” said Dr. Charles Owubah, CEO, Action Against Hunger. “Together, we can roll out new evidence-based solutions to treat dangerously malnourished children and accelerate innovative programs to prevent hunger by addressing its root causes. Without urgent action, we fear that child mortality could rise for the first time in 60 years.”
More than half of the world’s hungry people live in countries in conflict, where hunger is increasingly used as a weapon of war, with indiscriminate attacks on croplands, water structures, and food and livestock storage, which violate international humanitarian law. Hunger and armed conflict have become a vicious cycle, yet it is one that we can, and must, break to achieve the goal of zero hunger as well as lasting peace.
On International World Food Day, the EU reiterated its commitment to fight hunger across the globe and tackle its root causes. It vowed to do everything in its power to prevent people dying from hunger and children suffering the lifelong effects of malnutrition.
On the food front, mankind faces serious challenges, which require global efforts. Food insecurity continues to rise due to conflict, climate change and economic shocks. The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are taking hunger and malnutrition to unprecedented levels.
During 2014-2020, the EU mobilised €12.8 billion to promote food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture in over 80 countries. Since 2010, the EU has supported more than 100 million people lacking access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food through its humanitarian food assistance.
As food security grows from bad to worse, the UN Secretary General’s Food Systems Summit is scheduled to be held in 2021 which will be a major global milestone in moving to a more sustainable planet.