Last night, 795 million people went to sleep hungry. That’s a larger number than the populations of the U.S. and Europe combined, and the effects of not having enough foo makes hunger (and malnutrition) the No. 1 public health risk worldwide—greater than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
In 2000, presidents and prime ministers of the United Nations countries set a goal to cut hunger in half by 2015. We came close but didn’t quite hit the target: Worldwide, 10.9 percent of people are undernourished, down from 18.6 percent in 1990–92, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization recently reported. Despite falling short, the 193 member states agreed this week to charge forward with an even bigger goal: ending poverty and hunger by 2030. The goal is part of the new post-2015 sustainable development goals that will be considered at the U.N. General Assembly in September.
It may sound like a beauty pageant wish, but it is an entirely achievable goal. Some paths to end hunger are relatively straight, a matter of increased production and ecosystem maintenance; others are more systemic, such as solving ongoing conflict and reshaping cultural ideas regarding gender roles. But with international cooperation and a departure from “business as usual,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva think achieving the goal is possible.
What would it take? Simply put, $160 per year for each person living in extreme poverty. That’s a really nice dinner for two in Brooklyn and less than an August air-conditioning bill.
At the presentation of a report on hunger in July, Graziano da Silva said the total investment would total $267 billion per year over the next 15 years. “Given that this is more or less equivalent to 0.3 percent of the global GDP, I personally think it is a relatively small price to pay to end hunger,” he said.
Humanitarians and research institutions are optimistic too. “We can change these things when we all agree to the same goals,” said Lyric Thompson, senior policy manager at the International Center for Research on Women. “The important thing is that we need to carry that work through.” Here’s what needs to be done.