By Robin Gomes
"Humanity has not done its duty enough for its poorest brothers." Monsignor Fernando Chica Arellano, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), made the remark following the UN’s annual report on world hunger.
Over 820 million hungry people
An estimated 820 million people did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year, said the FAO, IFAD, WFP, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in their joint report released on Monday.
According to the 2019 “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report, after nearly a decade of progress, the number of people who suffer from hunger has slowly increased over the past three years, with about one in every nine people globally suffering from hunger today.
The report is part of monitoring the progress towards the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of "Zero Hunger", which aims to defeat hunger, promote food security and end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.
“Hunger continues to grow… The numbers are really very alarming”, noted Msgr. Chica Arellano speaking to Vatican News.
Asia has the highest number of hungry people with 513.9 million, followed by Africa with 256.1 million and Latin American with 42.5 million.
In East Africa, about one-third of the population (30.8%) is undernourished. This is exacerbated by factors such as climate change, conflicts and economic crises.
The Vatican diplomat pointed out that the figures highlight not only the “cruelty of hunger” but also the phenomenon of obesity. With 672 million obese adults in the world, or 1 out of 8, the problem, he said is not only a problem of “undernourishment” but also of “malnourishment”. People in both cases, he said, neither have a serene present nor a bright future.
Lack of will
He said the international community really should do more. He said there is a lack of will, especially in removing the man-made causes, such as conflicts, the economic crisis and climate change. These three factors, Msgr. Chica Arellano said, continue to produce these scourges.
Recalling the advice of Pope Francis, the Vatican diplomat pointed out that each person can help fight the scourge of hunger in the world. “First of all, do not waste food; then, do not pass, as the priest or the Levite did, in front of the poor by closing your eyes or not listening to the cry of the hungry,” Msgr. Chica Arellano said. Likewise, inspiring initiatives are being done at the parish, NGO and other levels, “but more can be done”.
The UN report should be a motive to do more and the international community must grow in solidarity, because, the Holy See official said, solidarity, which is an investment in peace, is a way of fighting hunger. “If we do not defeat hunger”, he warned, “I believe that all the other SDGs of the 2030 Agenda will not be achieved.”
SDG No. 1 “No poverty” and SDG No.2 “Zero Hunger”, Msgr. Chico Arellano said, are fundamental in achieving the remaining 15 goals, which together demand that no one be left behind.
The Vatican diplomat recalled Pope Francis telling FAO conference members during a meeting in the Vatican last month that hunger is a problem that must involve everyone because the suffering of one person is the suffering of all.
The Holy Father also made an appeal for good use of water, food production and its fair distribution, noting that while there are countries where food is surplus, there are entire regions, especially in Africa, where it is lacking. This inequality is truly cruel, he added.