NEW YORK –The staff and supporters of Church World Service are cheering the news that the number of hungry people globally is declining – by more than 100 million during the last decade and twice that number since 1990-92.
But the annual report of the three United Nations food agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, contains a key cautionary note. At least one in nine people – some 805 million people in the world – still lack access to a stable food supply and go to bed hungry.
“We are encouraged by the positive trends globally, but the report highlights the need to continue and redouble efforts to fight hunger in those parts of the world still facing serious problems,” said the Rev. John L. McCullough, CWS CEO and president.
Overall, the report – “State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014)” – confirmed positive trends. In their announcement of the findings, the UN agencies said the reduction in hunger means that the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of undernourished people by half by 2015 is possible “if appropriate and immediate efforts are stepped up,” the report said.
“This is proof that we can win the war against hunger and should inspire countries to move forward, with the assistance of the international community as needed,” José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin, the respective heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, wrote in their foreword to the annual report.
The SOFI report includes three areas where CWS works to combat hunger: Bolivia, Haiti and Indonesia.
According to the report, in Bolivia, where CWS supports the most marginalized by increasing the ability of indigenous groups to enhance their food supply, extreme poverty has been reduced by 17.2 percent between 2001 and 2012, because of income redistribution.
In Haiti, where CWS addresses hunger by supporting food cooperatives in the impoverished northwestern region of the country, hunger remains a serious problem, the report said, with more than half of Haiti’s total population chronically undernourished.
In Indonesia, where CWS fights chronic malnutrition with emergency feeding centers, addresses hunger with micro-lending and access to seeds, tools and training, strong economic growth has gradually reduced overall poverty in the country.
Michael Koeniger, the CWS Country Representative in Indonesia, took note of the report in Jakarta. “Although Indonesia’s national economy continues to expand, and absolute poverty continues to decline, progress remains uneven,” Koeniger said.
“Malnutrition rates are particularly high in eastern Indonesia, for example on the island of West Timor. Here CWS has worked for more than a decade with a focus on food and nutrition security, particularly for children under the age of five and pregnant and lactating mothers.”
On the progress in Latin America, Fionula Cregan, an Argentina-based program officer for CWS, said: “CWS has had a role in improving the food security situation of the communities we serve, whether in feeding programs or helping empower communities gain access to land and develop it sustainably.”
McCullough added: “In many ways, the report highlights what agencies like CWS have long known – despite progress in many areas, including steady progress toward hitting the benchmarks of the Millennium Development Goals, chronic malnutrition remains a serious problem throughout the world, as in the case of Haiti. Chronic malnutrition or undernourishment does not get the attention that an emergency famine situation receives, yet its effects can be just serious and debilitating.
“We are proud that, in the case of three of the seven case study countries – Bolivia, Haiti and Indonesia – CWS has had a role in improving the food security situation of the communities we serve, whether in feeding programs, support for food cooperatives, accompanying communities for land rights or the development of kitchen gardens.”
He added: “These are steps that, taken together, make a difference in the lives of those whose lives are in some way touched by the work of CWS and our partners. But we also realize much work is still to be done.”