by Jean-Francois Riffaud et al*
Hunger has been rising globally since 2014, the risk of famine in some countries is real and malnutrition rates are still very high. Having been a world leader on nutrition through its last seven-year budget, the EU needs to take up its responsibility again, argue a group of advocates.
Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were still far from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG2) of Zero Hunger by 2030 and the impacts of the pandemic have reversed years of development gains. In 2020, twelve per cent of the global population was severely food insecure.
Three billion people did not have access to healthy diets. Forty-one million people are on the verge of famine. These latest estimates are alarming and show that urgent EU action is needed. We, as civil society, are concerned that eradicating hunger and malnutrition is being deprioritized on the political agenda of the EU.
The EU’s financial commitment for nutrition ended last December, despite the significant financing gap that remains to end hunger and malnutrition. Conflicts, climate change, economic downturns, gender inequality, biodiversity loss, unfair food systems, and the lack of access to basic social services contribute to the deteriorating situation.
Now COVID-19 threatens the lives and livelihoods of people in vulnerable situations, resulting in increased malnutrition and food insecurity.
During the UN Food Systems Summit, the EU did not announce any new financial commitments for the 2021-2027 period. Disengagement of the EU will have disastrous effects in the fight against all forms of malnutrition.
Malnutrition represents a devastating obstacle to children’s cognitive and physical development, preventing them from reaching their full potential. It also leads to massive economic losses.
Nutrition is therefore both a human right, economic and political issue. If the EU is serious about meeting the SDGs and reaching its priorities on health, education, human development, the fight against climate change, and economic growth, it needs to invest more in nutrition.
At the last General Assembly of the United Nations, US President Joe Biden announced an ambitious $10 billion commitment to end hunger. The international community expects similar leadership from the EU, exceeding its previous pledge of €3.5 billion for 2014-2020.
The 2020 Farm to Fork Strategy will not be enough to reach SDG2. The EU must prioritize the strengthening of health and social protection systems, access to water and sanitation for all, the just and equitable transformation of food systems, and commit new financial resources to create a world free of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
The EU has the opportunity to announce new commitments during the upcoming 2021 Nutrition for Growth Summit, organised by the Government of Japan.
This key global event will take place in a month, during which governments, donors, civil society, philanthropies, and the private sector will gather to galvanise support for the fight against malnutrition.
As we have entered the last decade of the 2030 Agenda, this Summit will be crucial to accelerate progress. The EU must set an example, be represented at the highest level, and make a new financial pledge towards achieving Zero Hunger.
*Jean-Francois Riffaud – Action Against Hunger France, Chief Executive Officer; Antonia Potter Prentice – Alliance2015 Director; Celine Mias – CARE International EU Representative & Head of Office;Dominic MacSorley – Concern Worldwide Chief Executive Officer; Elise Rodriguez – Global Health Advocates Head of Advocacy, France and EU; Melchior Lengsfeld – Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation Executive Director; Simon Panek – People in Need Chief Executive Officer; Anita Bay Bundegaard – Save the Children EU Director & Representative; Sophie Aujean – WaterAid EU Representative; Mathias Mogge – Deutsche Welthungerhilfe Secretary General & Chief Executive Officer; Jeroen Uytterschaut – Executive Director & EU Representative of World Vision EU Representation
**first published in: www.euractiv.com