Jamia Salimo: It's expensive to be poor. People in poor countries are forced to spend most of their income on food, and yet it is not enough. Farmer Jamia Salimo in Mozambique has just bought soap, salt and cooking oil. Photo: Edson Artur.

Debate

Increased support for food production is vital

More people are at risk of starvation than of Covid-19 globally. The world is facing the worst hunger crisis in 50 years - at the same time, only 2,6 percent of Swedish aid goes to agriculture in poor countries. In order to avoid a hunger pandemic, and in general to succeed in achieving the UN's sustainability goal of eradicating world hunger, we must increase our agricultural aid and support for sustainable food production.

The corona pandemic has highlighted the vital role of food production in the world. In Sweden, the shelves in the shops have remained full, but we have gained painfully clear insight into the importance of our food production. Farmers are indispensable to the world, which is not least noticeable in all countries where hunger and poverty are now increasing.

This is the background to the aid organizations We Effects and Vi-skogen's new report Fair food to all!. Today's development is going backwards. Unimaginable two billion people worldwide today do not have the opportunity to get the food they need. This in turn has resulted in every eleventh person - 690 million people - being malnourished.

The hunger problem had already several years before Covid-19 increased in size rather than decreased, despite the fact that the world community through the UN set a goal to eradicate hunger by 2030.

During the corona pandemic, the situation has become even more acute. When societies and borders are closed down to prevent the spread of infection, people in the informal economy in the world's poor countries in particular have suddenly lost income and the opportunity to obtain food. The UN estimates that the corona pandemic will increase global malnutrition by 83-132 million in 2020 alone.

In a number of our operating countries, organizations we support report on the effects of the crisis. For example:

  • Nearly half of all children in Guatemala suffer from malnutrition. For many children, school meals are the most important meal of the day, and when schools are closed during the corona pandemic, there is a risk that malnutrition among children will increase.
  • Of the Philippines' more than 100 million inhabitants, 66 million cannot afford to eat enough nutritious food. With the corona, the number of households in the Philippines suffering from hunger has reached a record high of 7,6 million.
  • In Mozambique, the rural population spends half of its income on food. The very poorest, such as 56-year-old Jamia Salimo, with whom We Effect works, spend close to two-thirds of their income on food, but still cannot afford a nutritious diet.
  • In Tanzania, eight out of ten residents lack money to eat a full diet. Most are small-scale farmers, such as Aulelia Leonidas with whom Vi-skogen works. Before the corona pandemic, she and others used to sell coffee across the border in Uganda, which is not possible now.

What can be done to slow down this serious development? A very important first step is to redirect parts of Swedish development assistance. The World Bank states that long-term investments in agriculture can be four times as effective in reducing poverty compared to investments in other areas. But while the world is potentially facing the worst hunger crisis in 50 years, only 2,6 percent of Swedish aid goes to agriculture. We believe that this should be doubled to at least 5,0 percent of total aid in order to be on a par with the international average.

Sweden can become a strong voice against hunger internationally. Even though we are a small country, we make an impression on several global issues. We can and should do the same for the right to food.

The hunger in the world

Two billion people do not have secure access to enough nutritious food. It is a quarter of the world's population. 690 million people in the world suffered from malnutrition even before the corona pandemic. The UN warns that another 130 million could be affected by famine due to the pandemic. One billion hungry people are in Asia, 675 million in Africa, 205 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, 88 million in North America and Europe, and 5,9 million in Oceania. Sources: FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (2020)

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