International development goals remain unmet
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/02/2022 (472 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
“#GOFORTHEGOALS” is the call for the 2022 International Development Week (IDW). But with the three Cs being major reasons for increasing hunger — conflict, climate and COVID-19 — are we still on track?
IDW happens annually on the first full week of February, to mark Canada’s international development efforts.
When IDW began in 1991, across the world in Lebanon, Alice was 44 years old. She is now a 65-year-old widow helping raise her seven grandchildren — all under nine years old — who live with her in a two-bedroom home.
Before October 2020, she struggled to provide the children with one or two meals a day. One grandchild was suffering from malnutrition. Alice now receives food vouchers with which she buys her grandchildren nutrient-rich foods such as meat, milk and fruit.
As we mark IDW 2022 and the generosity of Canadians helping others around the world, we think of Alice and millions of others who still struggle to meet their basic needs.
#GofortheGoals reminds us that we are not there yet. In 2015, Canada and other UN member states adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals to achieve by 2030. While an ambitious undertaking, these 17 goals are a much-needed commitment to health and prosperity for all of us, and the Earth.
The second goal is “Zero Hunger” by 2030. Targets for zero hunger include ending all forms of malnutrition and increasing sustainable and resilient agricultural productivity. With eight years to go, how close are we to zero hunger? Not close — in fact, a little bit further back than we were in 2015. The three Cs — conflict, climate and COVID-19 — are major reasons for increasing hunger.
In 2020, conflict was the main cause of severe hunger for 99.1 million people in 23 countries or territories. I met Jamima in 2019 in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda. This was the fourth time the conflict in South Sudan had forced her to flee to safety. Against a backdrop of arid land in shimmering heat, she and other refugees reminisced about the vegetables they used to grow and eat back home when there was peace.
The longer the conflict lasts, the worse hunger gets. For example, in 2020, of the 10 countries with the largest number of malnourished children (low weight for height), eight were in long-lasting conflicts. Conflict also prevents the delivery of humanitarian food and health services, and in extreme cases can lead to famine.
Famine was declared in some areas of southern Somalia from August to September 2011, and in parts of South Sudan in January 2017. Conflict not only disrupts food production and destroys the economy; conflict actors can also block humanitarian responses, making bad hunger situations worse.
Climate extremes also contribute to famine. In 2021, thousands in Madagascar were experiencing famine-like conditions caused by persistent drought. Drought contributed to the 2011 famine in areas of southern Somalia. Climate change is expected to result in reduced crop yields in some areas, lower nutrition in some crops, and increased incidence of pests and disease.
The last “C,” and the most widely experienced, is COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, many lost their sources of income and global food-supply chains broke down. Two years later, many of us are still feeling the repercussions of the pandemic on our health and the economy. But for millions, the pandemic has affected the availability and access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food.
To the already food-insecure, the impacts of COVID-19 have been dire. In Colombia’s Guajira desert, a local organization providing emergency food assistance to Venezuelan migrants saw an increase in hunger. People in the desert cannot grow their own food, and must depend on groceries delivered from the interior. Pandemic restrictions have led to the loss of jobs and higher food prices that have stayed high.
Achieving Zero Hunger means progress towards other development goals that seek to end protracted conflict, climate change and COVID-19. Canada has consistently given generously toward emergency food assistance and nutrition.
As we heed the call of IDW 2022, to #GofortheGoals we must acknowledge that to stay on track, we must also continue to support peace efforts, equitable and climate-resilient food systems and nutrition-sensitive climate-adaptive agriculture.
Let’s strive toward the goals, so Alice’s seven grandchildren can grow up with better prospects in a sustainably developed world.
Nyambura Githaiga is a senior policy advisor at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.