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UN: Nearly 500 Million People in Asia-Pacific Still Going Hungry


    15 December, 2019

    A new report says nearly 500 million people in East Asia and Pacific Ocean countries suffer from hunger and poor nutrition.

    United Nations (UN) agencies released the report on December 11. The agencies include the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization.

    Schoolchildren gather around street vendors outside their school in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 1, 2018.
    Schoolchildren gather around street vendors outside their school in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 1, 2018.

    Observers say the UN's aim to end world hunger by the year 2030 requires that millions of people escape food insecurity each month.

    The report notes slow progress and even some failures in the areas of child wasting, stunting and other problems related to malnutrition. Worsening levels of inequality mean that earnings in Asia and the Pacific are not increasing fast enough to help ensure healthy diets for hundreds of millions living in poverty.

    The report urges governments to combine efforts to end poverty with nutrition, health and education-related policies.

    The UN's sustainable development goals for 2030 call for ending hunger and making sure all people have access to food year-round.

    "We are not on track," said Kundhavi Kadiresan of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. "Progress in reducing undernourishment has slowed a lot in the past few years."

    More than one-fifth of all people in the Asia-Pacific area face moderate to severe food insecurity. That means they must go hungry part of the year, and in the worst cases, go days without eating.

    The UN agencies' report says more than half of the 479 million in the area who do not get enough to eat live in South Asia. More than one-third of all children there suffer from chronic malnutrition, said the report.

    In India, nearly 21 percent of children suffer from wasting, a more severe form of malnutrition.

    Michael Samson is research director of the Economic Policy Research Institute. He spoke earlier this month at the report's release in Bangkok. Samson said that failing to ensure children are well fed endangers their future development, especially their mental abilities.

    He added: "Investing in the first 1,000 days (of a child's life) is the most important investment you can make in future productivity."

    Some governments in Southeast Asia have begun enacting policies aimed at ending poor nutrition in children and mothers. Thailand has provided aid that has helped improve the health and diets of families with young children.

    In Myanmar, experimental programs in the Chin state are being expanded to other parts of the country.

    Cambodia is expanding a program that the U.S. Agency for International Development helped to set up. The program is called NOURISH. It provides help for poor pregnant women and families during the first 1,000 days of a baby's life.

    Laura Cardinal directed the program. She says there was a nearly 20% decrease in developmental issues and improvement in children's diets in areas where NOURISH operated.

    I'm Jonathan Evans.

    Elaine Kurtenbach reported this story for the Associated Press. Jonathan Evans adapted her report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    access – n. the right or ability to approach, enter, or use

    chronic – adj. happening or existing frequently or most of the time

    on track – phr. acting or thinking in a way that is likely to achieve what is required

    stuntingn. the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation

    sustainable – adj. able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed