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Asia-Pacific loses steam in the efforts to end hunger: study

A two-year-old malnourished boy sleeps in a hammock while taking refuge with his family in a classroom in Sukkar

(Copyright Reuters 2016)

HONG KONG (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Even if malnutrition killed millions of children around the world last year – with many deaths in Asia-Pacific, the region ‘ s progress in the direction of defeat of hunger is delayed, a new study found.

The study, published on Tuesday by the U. N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said although the Asia – Pacific region halved the number of hungry mouths, from 1990 to 2015, in many countries, progress has stagnated in the past five years.

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“The results show that the speed of the progress could easily be reduced to a low level or even negative, which results in erosion of the gains made in the good years,” the report said.

For example, conflict-torn Afghanistan cut hunger rates by 8.7 percent from 2003 to 2008, but reversed the trend from 2010 to 2015, with an increase of 1.6 percent. And in Bangladesh, the rate of the reduction is less than 1 percent from 2010 to 2015, compared with 10.9 percent between 1997 and 2002.

While rising rice prices and lower growth in the productivity of agriculture have played a role, which means that economic growth is the main driving force behind slower reduction of the hunger, said David Dawe, FAO senior economist and one of the authors of the study.

The economic growth in Asia was 5.9 percent last year, a decrease of 6.3 percent in 2014 and an average of almost 8 percent more than the previous decade. With less money in their pockets, poor families buying less food.

As a result, 12 percent of the population of the region – or some 490 million people undernourished, with most of them in South Asia. Region-wide, almost one in three children suffers from stunting, which carries serious, irreversible consequences for both the physical health and cognitive functioning.

With more than 60 percent of the world’s hungry live in the Asia-Pacific region, the slower growth in the region has led to a strong global numbers of the chronically hungry.

Globally, 805 million people suffer from chronic hunger between 2012 and 2014. While chronic malnutrition as measured by stunting has declined, some 161 million children under five years were affected in 2013.

Poor nutrition is the main underlying cause of death in under five-years-old and younger children, responsible for 45 percent of all child deaths worldwide in 2013, according to the study.

The game is also the goal of achieving zero hunger worldwide in 2030, one of the U. N.’s Sustainable Development Goals agreed last year.

At the most recent rates, only two countries in Asia are on course to fight hunger in 2030, researchers said.

The authors of the study urged governments in the Asia-Pacific region to accelerate their efforts with the efforts for more investments in agricultural research to produce food more efficiently, and build roads to help the poor in the countryside have to travel and find a job easier.

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