Is it possible to ensure that all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious and sustainable food? This is the question that opened and challenged the World Exposition in Milan in 2015. A question that was answered in a definitive manner by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he launched the “Zero Hunger Challenge”: we can eliminate hunger in our lifetime.
Launched in 2012 during the Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, The “Zero Hunger Challenge” presents the vision of a world free from hunger, where at the same time, it is possible to face the growing demand for food and meet new environmental challenges head on.
Expo Milano 2015 fell in a crucial year for the United Nations: not only was the overall progress in meeting the Millenium Development Goals (the first of which is to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger) reviewed, the new Post-2015 Development Agenda was also adopted. Expo Milano’s theme, “feeding the planet, energy for life” provided an ideal opportunity to foster dialogue and raise public awareness about food security and nutrition, rural development and the sustainable management of natural resources. In order to maximize this impact, the UN chose the theme “The Zero Hunger Challenge ∙ United for a sustainable world”, to make visitors understand that together we can build a world where everyone has access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and can lead a healthy and productive life without compromising the needs of future generations.
The challenge was not envisioned as a plan but rather as a call to action: eradicating world hunger is a goal that concerns everyone. The objective of our presence at Expo Milano 2015 was to ensure that when discussing food and food production, the catastrophe of 795 million people who still suffer from hunger was not forgotten or left unmentioned.
At least one in nine people worldwide go to bed hungry each day including over 160 million children who are stunted. Children who will not be able to develop and learn at the same rate as their peers who were properly nourished in the first fundamental one thousand days of life. This is a scandal that to many seems destined to last, while in reality it can end.
When talking about hunger, the only acceptable number is zero. In order to achieve this goal, the Zero Hunger Challenge has proposed five elements:
1. Zero stunted children less than 2 years
2. 100 percent access to adequate food all year round
3. All food systems are sustainable
4. 100 percent increase in smallholder productivity and income
5. Zero loss or waste of food.
An integral part of all five elements, we chose to highlight the issue of women’s empowerment considering the fundamental role that they play in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.
In many countires, women represent the backbone of the agricultural sector and food systems and make up the bulk of the work force in the primary sector. Women also play a key role in guaranteeing food security for the whole family: when women suffer from hunger and malnutrition, so do their children. Over 19 million children are born underweight each year. This is often a consequence of their mothers’ inadequate nutrition before and during pregnancy.
Despite this, around 60 per cent of those who suffer from chronic hunger are women. This is due to the fact that women often do not have equal access to resources, education and income generation along with having a minor role in decision-making.
For more information on the UN Secretary-General's Zero Hunger Challenge and how to join, consult the official United Nations Zero Hunger Challenge website by clicking here.