After a period of decline, world hunger and malnutrition are on the rise again. Factors including conflict, extreme weather events linked to climate change and economic slowdown are reversing earlier progress.
The absolute number of undernourished people - those facing chronic food deprivation - increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016. Moreover, 2 billion people worldwide suffer from hidden hunger, or micronutrient deficiencies, caused by not eating a diverse diet. Without increased and persistent efforts, the world will fail to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030.This is clearly an issue that demands attention.
Yet there are reasons to be positive too. World Food Day, which is being celebrated today, offers an opportunity to reflect on where we are falling short and renew our efforts to eradicate hunger. This year's theme, ‘Our Actions Are Our Future’, calls on nations, sectors and professions to work together and act on evidence.
As we mark this important occasion, I invite you to examine the significant evidence our researchers are producing to support the case for fish as a crucial part of national and global efforts to improve nutrition and food security:
- A new study from Zambia showing that children who consume fish are less likely to be stunted.
- A story on the success of the USAID-funded rice field fisheries project in Cambodia, which is working to sustainably increase the productivity of rice field fisheries - a vital source of food for rural communities.
- A major partnership with FAO and Duke University to build on our 2012 research on the often ‘hidden’ (unreported) contribution of small-scale fisheries to the livelihoods of millions and the nutrition of billions.
- A blog post by nutrition specialist Molly Ahern, who traveled to Malawi and Zambia to test the acceptability of nutrient-rich fish powder through cooking demonstrations and sensory evaluations of dishes prepared from locally adapted recipes.
- A video interview with Shakuntala Thilsted, WorldFish's Value Chains and Nutrition Program Leader, on the role of fish in a nutritious diet.
- A multimedia Exposure story to highlight some of our novel, nutrition-sensitive fish production and consumption technologies, created especially for World Food Day by our Communications team.
Fish are rich in vitamin B12, calcium, iron, zinc, fatty acids and animal protein, and some small fish are especially rich in vitamin A. When consumed as part of a meal, fish can increase the absorption of iron and zinc from other foods. Essential fatty acids, which are only found in fish, are critical for pregnant and lactating women and young children, as they are vital for cognitive development in the first 1000 days of life.
WorldFish, through the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH), is leading research to enhance the sustainability, productivity and access to fish by those who need it most. Yet reversing the trend of rising hunger will only be achieved by partnering with the communities, research innovators, entrepreneurs and investors who give fisheries and aquaculture their dynamism and promise.