Feeding extremes

The critical challenges of over and under-nutrition worldwide.

Nip Wijewickrema

Development, Social policy, Health, Food & water | Asia, East Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, The Pacific, The World

22 September 2014

The ‘triple burden’ of hunger, obesity and under-nourishment.

The world is facing a terrible ‘triple burden’ with 870 million people going hungry, over two billion people overweight and many under-nourished.

These stark figures highlight the extremes from issues of global food, energy and water security says Dr Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Speaking exclusively to the Crawford Conversation podcast series, Dr Fan said the world was suffering a ‘triple burden’ from food-related issues.

“I call it the triple burden. The first burden is under nourishment. Simply, people don’t have enough to eat and have a lack of energy and calories in their diet.

“The second is a hidden hunger-a lack of micronutrients and vitamins. This hidden hunger damages our mental and physical health and is as important as under nourishment-the visible hunger.

“The third burden is over nutrition. Overweight- so we eat too much or we don’t eat the right thing,” said Dr Fan.

His research found the two extremes of under and over nutrition were having a negative impact on the global economy.

“All these burdens, every year, costs us trillions of trillions of dollars of gross domestic product (GDP).

“Five per cent of global GDP is lost because of a triple burden of malnutrition. It’s an economic issue, it’s a [human] rights issue,” said Dr Fan.

In 2014, Dr Fan received the Hunger Hero Award from the World Food Programme in recognition of his commitment and leadership in fighting hunger worldwide.

Dr Fan said the implications of the extremes of the scale are crippling on several levels.

“Hunger is not only an economic issue; it’s a development and human rights issue,” he said.

“Everybody in this world deserves good nutritious food.

“I grew up in rural China, so we experienced hunger and malnutrition. Today we are nourished.

“I really hope that everybody in this world is as lucky as I am to make sure that everybody is well nourished and can use their potential to have a very productive, intelligent and joyful life,” said Dr Fan.

You can listen to the Crawford Conversation here.

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