A Vatican diplomat has denounced that the world is “not on track” to reach the sustainable development goal of ‘zero hunger’.

– 690 million people suffered hunger in 2019, an increase of 10 million people in a year

Fernando Chica Arellano, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), made the criticism in an interview with Vatican News after the publication July 13 of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report.

That report was prepared by five UN agencies: FAO, the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Chica explained that the goal of the report was to study “the path humanity is taking in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was inaugurated in 2015″, and in particular – with respect to the goal of ending famine – “to check the world’s commitment to achieving food security and [erradicating] hunger and all forms of malnutrition”.

The international community thought ending hunger “would be possible in 2030. Unfortunately the data indicate that the world is not progressing towards meeting the second goal of this agenda, which is to ensure access for all people to healthy, nutritious and sufficient food”, Chica warned.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020 report makes for sober reading indeed.

According to the UN agencies, nearly 690 million people – 8.9% of the world’s population – went hungry in 2019, an increase of 10 million people in a year and of 60 million people in five years.

Last year, too, 750 million people – nearly one-in-ten people in the world – suffered severe levels of food insecurity, the UN agencies denounced in their report.

– UN projects 840 million hungry in 2030

Not only is the world not on track to meet the ‘zero hunger’ target, but the situation regarding malnourishment around the world is actually getting worse, the Vatican diplomat deplored.

“60 million more people have been affected by hunger since 2014. Since this year there is a continuous trend and the number of undernourished people continues to grow. It is estimated that by 2030, far from being the end of world hunger, there will be around 840 million undernourished people”, the prelate decried.

COVID-19, again, is another factor presently aggravating world hunger, Chica acknowledged, warning that as a consequence of the pandemic another 130 million people could be in a situation of famine by the end of 2020.

– “The key word at this juncture is cooperation, and an investment in international solidarity”

What to do, then, to turn things around with regard to world hunger and once and for all guarantee food security for all?

In the first place, the UN agencies pleaded in their report that healthy diets be made more affordable and the cost of nutritious foods come down.

“Countries will need a rebalancing of agricultural policies and incentives towards more nutrition-sensitive investment and policy actions all along the food supply chain to reduce food losses and enhance efficiencies at all stages”, the agencies recommended, calling also for governments to implement “nutrition-sensitive social protection policies” as well as “policies that more generally foster behavioural change towards healthy diets”.

On top of that, Chica Arellano told Vatican News that “the world has to invest in peace, in solidarity and naturally in justice”.

“But the world should wake up, open its eyes, because everything can really change if there is a healthy and loyal cooperation”, the diplomat added.

“Reducing hunger requires reducing poverty, which requires peace, cooperation and solidarity”, Chica Arellano said, reminding the world that to tackle both hunger and poverty “all it takes is policies”.

“The key word at this juncture is cooperation, and an investment in international solidarity”, the Vatican Observer to the FAO concluded.

More on Novena on Church efforts to help end world hunger:

Vatican proposes on COVID-19 recovery: “What if instead of an arms race we ‘race’ towards food, health and work security?”

Pope donates 25,000 euros to World Food Programme

Vatican official urges world “to press the reset button” on system post-COVID, forge “a new path”

Pope pleads for “urgent” help for “those who hunger for food and for dignity, those without work and those who struggle to carry on”

Vatican pleads with governments to divert weapons spending to ensure food security for world’s 800 million hungry


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.