The fight against global hunger

 

A chara, – A concerning new UN report signals that world hunger and malnutrition levels have worsened dramatically. The number of undernourished people globally rose to 811 million last year, the equivalent of 10 per cent of the world’s population. This marks an increase of 118 million compared to 2019, a rise very much driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Food Systems Summit at the UN General Assembly in New York later this year provides world leaders with a perfect opportunity to take real action to tackle one of the gravest humanitarian issues facing the poorest of the poor.

While Goal welcomes Ireland’s commitment to tackling hunger globally, we believe in the importance of getting things right at home as well as overseas.

Ireland can play its part by ensuring its national agricultural policy meets the highest environmental standards in accordance with the Climate Action Bill 2021, including that environmentally harmful subsidies in the agricultural and food sector be phased out. Irish food policy should move towards more sustainable diets and less consumption of livestock products through incentives and supports.

In addition, as we have outlined in our new food systems discussion document, our trading interests must not be prioritised over climate sensitivity, gender equality and human rights.

Climate change is one of the biggest issues the world will face this century, and it is happening against a backdrop of increased disaster occurrence everywhere.

But as the crisis brought on by Covid-19 has demonstrated that while all people on the Earth are dependent on food systems, we are not all equally vulnerable to the shocks and stressors that affect them. Poverty, gender, age, rurality, disability, ethnicity, and a host of other factors lead to extremes of vulnerability.

As a current member of the UN Security Council, Ireland is ideally placed to take a leadership role among developed nations by implementing domestic policies on topics such as climate change and food production. Historically, Ireland has shown leadership and a willingness to tackle this issue.

We must once more step up. – Yours, etc,

MARY VAN LIESHOUT,

Deputy CEO and

Director of External Affairs,

Goal,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – As countries in the West take steps to restart their economies following the devastation of the pandemic, it is going to be critical that we not lose sight of the global nature of this crisis.

Tough decisions will inevitably be made by national governments as they respond to the economic realities of Covid-19 – a precipitous fall of 3.3 per cent in global GDP last year included – but these cannot be made at the expense of the world’s poorest.

The UN Development Programme estimate that over 100 million people have entered the ranks of the extreme poor in the past year, while that figure could double, bringing the total number to more than a billion, before the end of this decade.

Foreign direct investment, a critical source of financing for emerging and developing economies, fell by 42 per cent in 2020, while the debt burden of developing countries soared by an estimated $3 trillion.

By the end of this year, it is expected that remittances – the money sent home by family overseas, and a vital source of income in many rural poor communities in Africa – will decline by more than $20 billion because of Covid-19.

This economic perfect storm is happening across Africa with the continent in the midst of a pandemic surge that has seen an average 28 per cent week-on-week increase in infections for each of the past four weeks.

The World Health Organisation say that this surge is driven by a mix of public fatigue, social mixing, ineffective public health measures and the emergence of highly infectious new variants. With under 2 per cent of people in Africa fully vaccinated, that medical bulwark against the disease doesn’t yet exist.

As we in the West emerge slowly from the most dangerous period in our lifetimes, we shouldn’t forget that the dangers to the health and economic welfare of the world’s poorest are far from over. – Yours, etc,

RAY JORDAN,

CEO,

Self Help Africa,

Dublin 8.