World Food Day is celebrated annually on 16 October to promote global awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger, and to highlight the need to ensure healthy diets for all. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) designated 16 October as World Food Day in 1979.
The theme for 2021 is "Our actions are our future- Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life".
The number of people facing acute food insecurity and requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance is on the rise. Conflict is the main reason, combined with climate disruption and economic shocks, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conflict and hunger are mutually reinforcing. Hunger and conflict should be addressed together to solve either, as they cannot be resolved separately. Hunger and poverty combine with inequality, climate shocks and tensions over land and resources to spark and drive conflict. Likewise, conflict forces people to leave their homes, land, and jobs. It disrupts agriculture and trade, reduces access to vital resources like water and electricity, and therefore drives hunger and famine.
The magnitude and severity of food crises worsened in 2020 as protracted conflict, the economic fallout of COVID-19 and weather extremes exacerbated pre-existing fragilities. Forecasts point to a grim outlook for 2021, with the threat of famine persisting in some of the world’s worst food crises.
- More than 3 billion people (almost 40 percent of the world’s population) cannot afford a healthy diet.
- Almost 2 billion people are overweight or obese due to a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle. Related health-care costs could exceed USD 1.3 trillion per year by 2030.
- The world’s agri-food systems currently employ 1 billion people, more than any other sector.
- Smallholder farmers produce more than 33percent of the world’s food, despite challenges, including poverty and a lack of access to resources including finance, training, and technology.
- Globally, 20 percent more women than men aged 25-34 live in extreme poverty, and more than 18 percent of indigenous women live on less than USD 1.90a day.
- The world's food systems are currently responsible for more than 33percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
- 14 percent of the world’s food is lost due to inadequate harvesting, handling, storage and transit and 17 percent is wasted at consumer level.
- 55 percent of the world’s population resides in cities, and this will rise to 68 percent by 2050.
- 10 percent of people are affected by unsafe food supplies contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances.
Focus on South Africa
The majority of South Africans living in townships face a constant daily struggle for basic needs such as food. About 53 children under the age of five die in South Africa every day - and three-quarters of them do not live to see their first birthday.
Objectives in South Africa
- To inform South Africans on the National Policy on Food and Nutrition Security.
- To heighten public awareness on issues such as absence and scarcity of food in the country and to strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.
- To promote food production and to stimulate national, bi-lateral, trans-national and non-governmental initiatives.
- To encourage research and technology development for the development of symbiotic ecological food production systems to ensure sustainable food production.
- To enhance the participation of rural people, particularly women and the under privileged in decisions and events impacting their living conditions.
- To heighten public awareness on the government programmes aimed at halving hunger in South Africa.
- To raise awareness of the public regarding the contribution of indigenous forests to food security and nutrition.
Addressing hunger is a foundation for stability and peace. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and particularly Sustainable Development Goal 2 is zero hunger. Food systems should be transformed to make them more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.