scorecardresearch
World Food Day 2022: India has enough food but it lacks an effective distribution mechanism

World Food Day 2022: India has enough food but it lacks an effective distribution mechanism

The pandemic has created more significant challenges and roadblocks towards achieving the stated goal. Hence, it is all the more important to redouble our efforts to ensure that no one goes to bed hungry and is left behind.

WHO has reported that the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 WHO has reported that the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020

On October 16, we celebrate World Food Day. As part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations (UN) has set a global objective to "end hunger by 2030". The theme wrapped around that goal is "leave no one behind." But, the world is currently far from attaining this objective.

According to Welthungerhilfe, one of Germany's largest private aid agencies that advocates "Zero Hunger by 2030", almost every 13 seconds, a child dies from the effects of hunger. Up to 828 million people are going hungry – while there is enough food, knowledge, and resources for all, and what's more, food is a human right.

The pandemic has created more significant challenges and roadblocks toward achieving the stated goal. Hence, it is all the more important to redouble our efforts to ensure that no one goes to bed hungry and is left behind. The pandemic has tested the health and food systems. It has revealed the pervasive inequality and inefficiency of our food systems. Even though food is vital to survival and the cornerstone of our cultures and civilizations, many of us take it for granted, even as others go without it. Therefore, it serves as a vital reminder that more must be done immediately to end hunger and guarantee that everyone has access to enough nutrient-rich food to lead active healthy lives.

The UN works with nations and people worldwide to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include eradicating all forms of hunger and malnutrition through its many organizations, funds, and programmes. We must demonstrate the same flexibility and ingenuity to eliminate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. The UN is taking innovative steps with its allies to address the health crisis and stop it from becoming a food calamity.

We must exhibit the same agility and creativity to eradicate poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Together with its partners, the UN is pushing the envelope to respond to the health crisis and prevent it from becoming a food disaster.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing fresh evidence that the world is moving further away from its goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.

The proportion of people affected by hunger jumped in 2020 and continued to rise in 2021 to 9.8 per cent of the world population. This compares with 8 per cent in 2019 and 9.3 per cent in 2020.

Around 2.3 billion people worldwide (29.3 per cent) were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021 – 350 million more compared to before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. An estimated 45 million children under the age of five were suffering from wasting, the deadliest form of malnutrition, which increases children's risk of death by up to 12 times.

Furthermore, 149 million children under five had stunted growth and development due to a chronic lack of essential nutrients in their diets, while 39 million were overweight.

On the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 Ranking, India ranks 101st out of 116 countries. The latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report published jointly by five UN organisations on July 6 shows estimates of widespread and worsening food insecurity in India. Based on the information in the report, it can be estimated that between 2019 and 21, around 56 crore Indians, or 40.6 per cent of the total population, had moderate or severe food insecurity.

The number of people in the nation that experiences extreme food insecurity has increased from 20.3 per cent in 2018–20 to 22.3 per cent in 2019–21. In 2019–21, the equivalent percentage for the entire world was approximately 10.7 per cent. About 37 per cent of all seriously food insecure people live in India alone.

To arrest this trend, the Government of India has rolled out several initiatives, including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY), to accelerate the eradication of malnutrition and famine. Last month, the scheme was extended for three months, i.e., October to December 2022, so they can also be part of the festival season and continue to enjoy the benefits of easy availability of food grains without any financial distress.

When the world is battling with the effects of Covid on its decline and insecurity for various reasons, India has been successfully maintaining food security for its vulnerable sections while taking necessary steps to keep availability and affordability for the common man. Financial implication for the government has been about Rs 3.45 lakh crore up to Phase-VI of PMGKAY. With the additional expenditure of about Rs 44,762 crore for Phase-VII of this scheme, the overall spending of PMGKAY will be about Rs.3.91 lakh crore for all the phases. Effectively, it has doubled the number of monthly foodgrain entitlements delivered to beneficiaries.

Initiatives such as the National Nutrition Mission (NNM), the National Food Security Mission, the Zero Hunger Programme, the Eat Right India Movement, and efforts to eradicate hunger and ensure food fortification are solely administered by the government. As evidenced by reports, such schemes have a lasting effect.

In addition to waging a battle against hunger and food insecurity, the government must assess the country's deficiencies. India has been enduring a continuous fight due to its tremendous population growth. A country's ageing population structure may progressively lead to a drop in food production labour force, limiting food supply. This has shifted the focus of future food production development from labour expansion to technical innovation.

To promote inclusive progress, the government and the nation's people must collaborate cohesively. For example, India has more than enough food to feed its population. But what it lacks is an effective distribution mechanism. Hence, as we celebrate World Food Day, we should remind ourselves that millions will be going to bed hungry that night and uncertain of their next meal.

Jolly is the Chairperson, IFBA (Ind Food & Beverage Association). Views expressed are personal.