In line with the USDA, the question of food insecurity arises when anybody is unable to attain a diet of minimum 2,100 calories a day, required to remain active and healthy. Persistence of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may subvert the elusive sustainable development goal of zero hunger (goal-2) adopted by the UN in 2015 targeting 2030, as nearly 660 million people will remain within the grip of global hunger by 2030.
The UN report in the second week of July this year portrays the highest rate of food insecurity in the last 15 years, pointing out that one in ten people in the world lacks balanced diets. The scenario in most countries of Asia and Africa are even more dilapidated as the food prices are have hit a record high in a decade, coupled with inflation of goods and disruption of supply chain.
The Prevalence of Undernourishment (POU) has increased to 9.9 percent in 2020 in contrast to 8.4 percent in 2019. The increase of POU is 1.1 percent in Asia but 2.5 percent in South Asia in 2020.
Nearly half of the undernourished population of the world lives in Asia, while Africa accounts for one third of such population. A recent report states that about 418 million undernourished people live in Asia and nearly 282 million people live in Africa, apart from 60 million in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Africa, Yemen, Zimbabwe and Congo are the worst hit nations in terms of capacity to buy adequate food.
South Asia with more than 1.94 billion people is experiencing a terrifying trajectory due to moderate to acute scarcity of food and nutrients. The people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka are the victims of this food crisis.
An estimate suggests that the world needs less than US $375 billion to end global hunger but the rich nations including USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Australia and Japan waste US $750 billion of food in each year
Statistics show nearly 25 per cent people in Bangladesh are victims of food insecurity while 36 per cent of children below five years of age suffer from stunting or symptoms of chronic malnutrition. In India, moderate to severe food insecurity increased from about 31.6 percent in 2019 to 38.4 per cent in 2021. Among the SAARC nations, Maldives and Bhutan with less than 1.2 million people are comparatively in better position in affording food nutrients and food security than others in the region.
Nature Food Journal study recently highlighted excessive malnutrition of mothers and children in low- and middle-income nations, triggering universal productivity losses of around US $30 billion in future. Oxfam reveals that 11 people die in hunger but Covid-19 kills 7 people in a minute, around the earth. In fact, income inequality during pandemic has uplifted in such a scale, the rich are buying private airplanes, luxurious cars while the poor are destined to lose their homes and homesteads.
Drastic drop of income levels in comparison with the pre-pandemic period, along with ramifications of armed conflicts, climate change, and economic slow-down and downturns, instability in politics as well as in economy have worsened the global records of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.
Food insecurity threatens the existence of human dignity, posing a serious threat to global human rights regime too. An estimate suggests that the world needs less than US $375 billion to end global hunger but the rich nations including USA, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Australia and Japan waste US $750 billion of food in each year.
Although, there has been mentionable socio-economic progress over the last 20 years, food security and malnutrition remain a huge challenge for South Asian nations and the Covid-19 has been a burgeoning threat to improve the situation for the poverty-stricken people.
During the upcoming 2021 UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021, global leaders will focus on food security in all regions, aiming at sustainable solution to this curse. Simultaneously, the upcoming meeting of the Agriculture Ministers of the G20, in mid-September in, Italy will highlight the discourse of food security and global hunger, promising to a series of concerted efforts to lessen the crisis.
There are legal policy instruments on food security in South Asian countries but only laws cannot ensure justice as to food security in absence of socio-economic capability. In the present context, more investment, along with research, innovation and investment in food and agricultural sector can reduce food insecurity, bringing justice for the victims. However, the present times demand a multi-pronged approach and participatory initiatives from state and non-state actors to address the South Asian enigma of chronic malnutrition as well as food and nutrition insecurity.
* Emdadul Haque is an Assistant Professor, Department of Law and Justice, BUBT, Dhaka. He also works as an Independent Human Rights Researcher and Freelance Contributor. Reach out at [email protected] and on Twitter @emdadlaw