Eradicating poverty in all its forms remains one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. While the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half between 1990 and 2015, too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs. As of 2015, about 736 million people still lived on less than US$ 1.90 a day, many lack food, clean drinking water and sanitation. Rapid growth in countries such as China and India has lifted millions out of poverty, but progress has been uneven. Women are more likely to be poor than men because they have less paid work, education, and own less property. Progress has also been limited in other regions, such as Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, which account for 80 percent of those living in extreme poverty. New threats brought on by climate change, conflict, and food insecurity, mean even work is needed to bring people out of poverty (Ecker and Breisinger 2012).
The number of undernourished people has dropped by almost half in the past two decades because of rapid economic growth and increased agricultural productivity. Many developing countries that used to suffer from famine and hunger can now meet their nutritional needs. Central and East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean have all made huge progress in eradicating extreme hunger. Unfortunately, extreme hunger and malnutrition remain a huge barrier to development in many countries. There are 821 million people estimated to be chronically undernourished as of 2017, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought, and biodiversity loss. Over 90 million children under five are dangerously underweight. Undernourishment and severe food insecurity appear to be increasing in almost all regions of Africa, as well as in South America (Ecker and Breisinger 2012).
A broad range of policies has been proposed to reduce the vulnerability of the world’s poor to global food price spikes, including amendments in global trade rules that restrict the possibility of food exporters to impose export bans, stricter rules on biofuel production and food commodity speculation, the institutionalization of grain reserves to stabilize prices in times of crises, and the creation and expansion of national social safety mechanisms, in addition to a boost in investments to raise agricultural productivity and adapt to changing climate sustainably (Ecker and Breisinger 2012).
Recent macroeconomic shocks include the global food price spikes in 2008 and 2010-11. Besides, the expected consequences of the ongoing financial and sovereign debt crisis in the United States and Europe for global economic growth, development assistance, foreign direct investments, and remittances put developing countries’ economies and households under increased stress. Examples of shocks with immediate effects on FNS occur at the micro level include civil conflicts and natural disasters such as floods and droughts. These shocks are usually localized and therefore threaten the livelihoods of only parts of the population directly through loss of household assets, market access, and income earning opportunities, among others. Yet, depending on the geographical spread and intensity, they may also slow national economic growth, lead to higher inflation, and cause a burden for the national budget limiting the financial space for alternative spending and investment (Ecker and Breisinger 2012).