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Threat of urban food insecurity growing in Asia-Pacific: UN agencies

Asian cities are growing at a very fast pace, with nearly 55% of the region’s vast population expected to live in urban areas by 2030, according to a new report from four UN agencies. It is expected to have an equally significant impact on food security in cities. and nutrition.

The jointly published annual SOFI report is produced by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). ), according to the FAO website.

The highlights of the report, released on 24 January, were themed “Asia-Pacific Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in 2022 – Urban Food Systems and Nutrition,” addressing the challenges of unhealthy diets in urban areas and It captures system-level determinants. Regarding undernutrition, overweight and obesity.

The convergence of growing low-income settlements, rising food costs, and the need to develop an urban food agenda that takes into account infrastructure, transport, clean water, and waste management has given planners and national policy makers new challenges. issues are occurring. Asia Pacific.

They profile different urban environments, interventions, experiences, and opportunities to innovate on multiple levels to transform urban areas into sustainable cities. Food security and nutrition in urban contexts measures progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) to end hunger and the World Health Assembly (WHA) 2030 target on food security and nutrition. Determining more and more lack.

Falling back on food security goals

This is the 5th Asia-Pacific SOFI Annual Report. In recent years, previous editions reported that progress in combating hunger and all forms of malnutrition had stalled and then retreated, and most recently he was further away from achieving the SDGs.

This reversal was evident even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. However, as the pandemic continued, most parts of the region experienced a 5F crisis (shortage of food, feed, fuel and fertilizer), albeit in a milder form, by 2022. , and finance), as well as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the world’s leading agricultural producers.

The convergence of these and other problems over the past year has resulted in unprecedented increases in food and energy prices, devastating homes and livelihoods, and pushing millions more into hunger and poverty. I drove in.

In March 2022, the FAO Food Price Index (FPI) rose to its highest level since its inception, capping the steady rise of the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

FPI has fallen somewhat since then, but remains significantly higher at 28% compared to 2020. Rising agricultural input prices, weather and climate concerns, and heightened market uncertainty due to the ongoing war in Ukraine are all contributing to tighter food markets. According to FAO’s latest food outlook, released in November, this year’s food import bill is likely to hit a new record of US$1.94 trillion.

The convergence of these negative forces will undoubtedly exacerbate hunger and poverty in the world’s most populous region, the Asia-Pacific region.

Urgent action required

The numbers in the report paint a grim picture and call for urgent action. By 2021, her 396 million people in the region will be undernourished and an estimated 1.05 billion people will be moderately or severely food insecure.

Nearly 75 million children under the age of five are stunted in the Asia-Pacific region, half the world’s total. 10% are affected by wasteful spending, and poor diets also contribute to an overall increase in overweight and obesity in children.

Among older children and adults, obesity continues to rise in all countries of the region. Pacific island countries have the highest prevalence of overweight and obesity in the world.

Obesity is a risk factor for many chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and has a significant impact on national economies by reducing productivity and life expectancy and increasing disability and health care costs. No country in the Asia-Pacific region is on track to meet the WHA goal of not increasing adult obesity.

Exacerbating the situation is the price to pay for achieving a healthy diet. In this region, in most countries he does not have access to a healthy diet for his nearly 2 billion inhabitants (1.9 billion, 44.5% of the region’s population). The combined effects of the pandemic and ongoing inflation have pushed the average cost of healthy eating to about US$4 a day (US$3.98 per person per day), the report notes. increase.

call to action in progress

During the year, as the 5F crisis escalated, four UN agencies took the initiative to work together at the regional and national levels to provide country- and action-coordinated technical assistance.

They urge all country representatives and officials to make synergistic efforts to address the short-term and medium- to long-term impacts of the crisis on economies, families and individuals, especially women and children. asked. region.

At the same time, a key principle of the report noted that the crisis is an opportunity to build on the momentum of the 2021 UN Food System Summit.

Working together, the Agency will work with Member States to rebuild and reimagine the food system across the region, making it more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable, leaving no one behind. We are stepping up our efforts to do so.

However, governments, civil society, the private sector, funding and development agencies are mobilizing their leadership and partnerships to drive transformative change in agri-food systems and to demonstrate improved figures in this flagship report in the years to come. We have to keep demonstrating.

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