239m in sub-Sahara suffering from hunger, malnutrition

In this file photo taken on May 31, 2017 a mother weighs her malnourished child in a nutrition centre run by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Panthau, Northern Bahr al Ghazal, South Sudan. [AFP]

Some 239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, a senior official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Saturday.

“The only way we can bring it to zero is through peace and security. Let us silence the guns by working hand in hand for peace and development,” said Marina Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General of FAO, on the sidelines of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the AU in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. 

Ms Semedo said the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have put in place several key targets including dramatically reducing the high number of sub-Saharan Africans suffering from poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

 “SDGs aim at accelerating progress towards eradicating poverty as well as ending hunger and malnutrition by tapping into the under-supported potential of agriculture to boost individual countries efforts to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development,” she said.

The Deputy Director General FAO added that the UN body is implementing various initiatives to raise the incomes of the rural poor. 

“In this context FAO’s hand in hand initiative identifies the best opportunities to raise incomes of the rural poor through agricultural transformation,” she said.

Agro-food transformation

 “The success of the initiative hinges on innovation and investment to fast-track agro-food transformation and sustainable rural development especially in countries where national capacities and international support are limited or where the population is vulnerable to natural disaster or conflict,” said Semedo.

In September 2019, FAO launched the hand in hand initiative to help achieve SDGs, especially ending poverty and hunger. 

The initiative aims to use innovative technology and methodologies to identify the best opportunities to improve the livelihoods of rural population. Josefa Sacko, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union, said new ideas are needed to end the twin challenges of hunger and poverty.

“Two intertwined challenges of our time keep persisting on the continent. It’s time to admit (that its not) business as usual and doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result defeats the tenets of wisdom,” said Sacko.

The AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture added that ending various conflicts in the African continent is crucial if the food security goals across the continent are to be realised. 

“We need to creatively find the common ground and common mechanism for addressing the nexus between conflict and food security,” said Sacko.