239 million hungry: New UN numbers show scale of African malnutrition

Debora Addu, a mother of seven children, mills sorghum from her family's land in Panddap, in the south of Aweil, northern Bahr El-Ghazal on October 10, 2015. Debora Addu assures the scarcity of water in this past rainy season made one of the shortest harvest in the past years and she expects the food will not last more than three months. The family will have to rely on the humanitarian assistance until the next harvest. Northern Bahr El-Ghazal is one of the states with the highest rates of malnutrition within the country due to the severe food crisis. According to the latest IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification), published in May 2015, from 2.5 million to 4.6 million people are classified severely food insecure in South Sudan, and it's expected that the number will increase drastically in the coming months due to the rising market prices and the drought. It's expected the new analysis of the IPC will be published in the coming days. AFP PHOTO / ALBERT GONZALES FARRAN (Photo credit should read ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
A mother mills sorghum in a drought-hit area of South Sudan. (ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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

“239 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are suffering from hunger and malnutrition…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.

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

“SDG aims 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 also emphasized the UN body is currently 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”.

“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 business as usual and doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different result defeats the tents of wisdom,” said Sacko.

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

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