Faced with the worrying trend of the recovery of the problem of hunger in the world we asked some questions to Valeria Emmi of CESVI (see bio at the bottom of the interview), in an attempt to better understand and give weight to this serious underestimated problem.
The Global Hunger Index (GHI), or hunger index, released these days by CESVI documents a retreat in the fight against hunger worldwide and in particular in some regions of the planet; could you give us your opinion on the phenomenon and highlight the most serious problems?
The 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI) – the sixteenth in an annual series – presents a multidimensional measurement of hunger at the global, regional, and national levels, which is based on four indicators: malnutrition, child wasting, infant stunting and mortality of children under five.
This year’s report highlights that the fight against hunger is currently experiencing a setback and in some cases a retreat. According to the current projections of the Global Hunger Index, the world as a whole and 47 countries in particular will not be able to reach a low level of hunger by 2030, 28 of these countries are located in Africa south of the Sahara, while the rest are scattered among the regions of South Asia, West Asia and North Africa, East Asia and Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The fight against hunger is dangerously off track 2030.
In 2020, 155 million people were severely food insecure – almost 20 million more than the previous year. Despite the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, violent conflicts have remained the main cause of hunger in the world. Active conflicts are on the rise and are becoming increasingly serious and persistent. More than half of undernourished people live in countries affected by conflict, violence, or fragility.
Violent conflicts affect virtually every aspect of a food system and at the same time, increased food insecurity can contribute to violent conflicts. If the problem of food insecurity is not solved, it will be difficult to build lasting peace, and without peace there is very little chance of ending hunger in the world. To these are added the consequences of climate change that are becoming increasingly evident and harmful and the COVID-19 pandemic, which throughout 2020 and 2021 has raged in different parts of the world, has shown how much we are exposed worldwide to infections and their health and economic consequences. Three major crises, three C’s, conflicts, climate change and COVID-19 that are intensifying and that threaten to wipe out all the progress of recent years in the fight against hunger.
The problem of hunger seems to have, at the media level, a lack of interest, linked more than anything else to the classic “days”, to international congresses and the like; how to give continuity and greater attention to the greatest cause of death on the planet?
Fondazione Cesvi continuously keeps attention on these issues, sharing its daily work alongside the populations in the most fragile contexts. The pandemic has certainly turned the spotlight on the interconnections of problems in every place on the planet and on the close link between health, environment, economy and social policies. The connection between these great crises, Covid-19, Conflicts and Climate Change on hunger in the world, the most serious of our century, should be addressed daily also at the media level, reasoning appropriately on the still too timid solutions put in place and stimulating those that should be implemented, mainly giving voice to civil society whose spaces for dialogue are gradually narrowing, giving way to the interests of the few on issues that involve everyone and everything.
The pandemic crisis has shown that it is possible to intervene on a problem with exceptional effort; it seems obvious that the hallucinatory number of children dying of hunger should be dealt with in the same way; in your opinion, what prevents it?
The pandemic crisis is still requiring an exceptional effort because it is affecting everyone very closely albeit in its different declinations, public health, economic and social. The ever-increasing high number of infant mortality appears in the North of the world something far from itself, less tangible. Yet the pandemic has generated an increase in poverty everywhere and consequently also in hunger. This experience should make us think more about the intrinsic links between the different crises we are experiencing and open up more space for a community reflection that overcomes the personal individualistic one.
We know that in the south of the world international organizations, NGOs, associations and governments are fighting against the models of industrial agriculture that has destroyed local subsistence economies; how much is being done in favor of a reintegration of local crops, how much weight is being given to a new model of proximity agriculture?
The importance of small-scale agriculture, populations, and civil society organizations in preserving local traditions, the protection of indigenous peoples, are issues well present on the international agenda and in the discussion, still without a clear and effective strategy. The debate is very much focusing on our food systems: production, harvesting, processing, transport, supply of the factors of production, financing, marketing and consumption. Strengthening food systems to counter the effects of conflict and climate change and simultaneously ensuring food and nutrition security is one of the recommendations that the Cesvi Foundation and international organizations are addressing to governments and donors. To pave the way for a radical change in our food systems, governments must actively follow up on the UN Food Systems Summit held in September 2021 and take advantage of upcoming opportunities – including the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) and the Tokyo Summit on Nutrition for Growth of the same year – to strengthen their commitment to achieving the Zero Hunger goal, investing in nutrition and resilience in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, as well as the effects of climate change for which the world has not developed any fully effective mechanism to slow them down, much less eliminate them.
What are the prospects also related to the exit from the pandemic emergency? And what resources would be needed not only at the economic level but also at the level of research, human resources, voluntary initiative?
The exit from the pandemic emergency requires that first of all health be recognized as a common good and that the rights and needs of the people most affected are respected, protected and supported. Removing the legal, financial, social and gender barriers that prevent access to healthcare is essential for any successful health response and to ensuring equitable access for all. To achieve this, international human rights standards must be translated into action, and leaders are responsible for implementing their commitments and ensuring health for all. Among these, it is now of fundamental importance to eliminate intellectual property rights barriers. It is necessary to recognize that current research and production of medical products, including vaccines, is based on the protection of trade secrets, patents and monopolies that prevent equal access and limit the capacities and results of global production and distribution for the high prices of essential medicines, increasing extreme inequality and leaving behind the poorest and most vulnerable. This is not only a moral failure, but also a failure of political will and the protection and promotion of public health. Global arrangements for pandemic responses must be fair to all, based on informed evidence and not on the basis of individual solvency capacity.
Valeria Emmi, economist with specialization in development economics, has started and coordinates for Cesvi the advocacy activities on strategic issues for the organization, both in the humanitarian and development fields, in addition to relations with institutions and political decision-makers at national, European, and international level.
She has been dealing for over ten years with social policies and international development cooperation in terms of advocacy and in particular food security and nutrition, child protection and combating maltreatment with expertise on gender policies and women’s empowerment.
Curator of numerous publications, she coordinates research groups and collaborations with Think Tank. She represents Cesvi in the various coordinations, coalitions of civil society and national and international thematic networks.