SOFI 2019: Safeguarding against economic slowdowns and downturns
The annual report ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ (SOFI) (PDF) by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, presents progress towards ending hunger, and improved food security and nutrition. Since 2015, hunger has been slowly on a rise, with the global level of the prevalence of undernourishment slightly below 11 percent. Hunger is on the rise in almost all subregions of Africa, and too a lesser extent in Latin America. In Europe and North-America around eight percent lacks regular access to nutritious and sufficient food. Further, obesity is on the rise in almost all countries. The number of stunted children has declined, though the rate is too slow to reach the target for 2030. Beyond the immense human costs of malnutrition, the economic costs are staggering. Undernutrition will reduce Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by up to 11 percent in Africa and Asia. One of the key drivers of the increase in hunger are economic slowdowns. Hunger has been on the rise in many of the countries where the economy slowed down or contracted, the majority in middle-income countries. Economic shocks have also prolonged and worsened the impact of conflict and climate events on acute food insecurity. Marked declines in primary commodity prices have contributed to economic slowdowns and downtrust. Economic events generally affect food security and nutrition in countries highly dependent on primary commodities for export/import, high poverty levels and existence of inequalities. The report calls for action on two fronts: 1) Safeguarding food security and nutrition through economic and social policies that help counteract the effect of economic slowdowns or downturns; 2) Tacklink existing inequalities at all levels through multisectoral policies that make it possible to more sustainably escape from food insecurity and malnutrition. Acting on these two fronts requires short- and long-term policy responses. In the short term, countries need to protect incomes and purchasing power. In the longer term, countries need to invest wisely during periods of economic booms to reduce economic vulnerabilities and inequalities; build capacity to withstand shocks; maintain health and other social expenditures; create healthier food environments; and quickly recover when economic turmoil erupts.