Liberia: FAO Director General Says World Food Day 2022 Unprecedented

FAO Country Representative, Mariatou Njie (center) reads FAO Director General’s statement on World Food Day celebration 2022 in Liberia.  

— Calls for Passion, Compassion To End Global Hunger

The Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Dr. QU Dongyu, says the World Food Day 2022 celebration is an unprecedented event, and as such it requires passion and compassion by all governments to end global hunger.

“Governments must invest more in agriculture to reduce hunger, now that the world is facing numerous and overlapping challenges from natural and man-made disasters —some of which recur annually, while others are unexpected and unforeseeable,” a statement from the Director General read. 

The statement said after more than 2 years of a global pandemic, with interruptions to international supply chains, and now with the impacts of the war in Ukraine, countries are left with a weak global  economy and the most vulnerable have been pushed to the brink of starvation. 

“The number of people suffering from hunger continues to rise and currently stands at 828 million and 3.1 billion people globally cannot afford a healthy diet, and the number of acutely food insecure people has risen from 135 million to 193 million,” the statement read.

The FAO Director General’s statement was read on by the Country Representative of FAO, Mariatou Njie, October 27, 2022 in Congo Town when the Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, development partners and farmers observed this year's World Food Day.

World Food Day is celebrated globally every year on October 16, to create awareness about the importance of reducing hunger. It was held under the theme for this year's celebration, “Safe Food Today for a Healthy Future”. 

In Liberia, a recent survey conducted by the government indicates that 47% of households (approximately 2.2 million people) are food insecure, more than double the result four years ago. The highest levels of food insecurity were reported in Sinoe (67%), Lofa (67%), Maryland (65%), Grand Cape Mount (65%), and Bong (64%) counties. An estimated 8% of households are severely food insecure and at risk of very high acute malnutrition and need urgent attention. Moreover, urban populations are becoming increasingly food insecure (45%).  

According to the Director General’s statement, the indicators of hunger are sad confirmation that too many people are being left further behind.

However, the statement said that in spite of the daunting circumstances the world faces, there is a promising and hopeful perspective. 

“For the first time, we are seeing an increased and strengthened political will on food security from all politicians, societies and key partners — from developed to developing countries, from rich to poor nations, at local, national, regional, and global levels,” the statement said.

“There is political momentum to do more and better — to build back better and stronger, together to take actions to ensure that no one is left behind. Among the many challenges, we have also seen positive actions that give us hope for an even better World Food Day next year, and in the years to come. 

The Liberian government is showing some level of political commitment toward achieving zero hunger. The country has experienced a shortage of rice, the nation’s staple, in recent weeks. But this has led the government to set up a rice stabilization task force to derive measures.   

“We see emergency actions being taken — both in the short and in the long term — to ensure continuous food availability, food accessibility and food affordability through initiatives and crises  response task forces,” the Director General said. 

The statement added that there must be actions to ensure that the supply of food, feed, fertilizers, fuel, and vegetable oil, among others, is kept open and operating smoothly. 

“I am very much delighted to see the endorsement of a new food shock window after FAO recommended a Food Import Financial Facility (FIFF) to the G20 Presidency in April this year to help vulnerable countries — approximately 62 — cope with food shortages and rising import bills. And we are seeing countries taking concrete steps to produce more food locally,” the statement read. 

According to the statement, FAO has been playing a bigger role in international fora such as the G20, G7 and the UN Security Council briefings, in particular through information notes, the monthly FAO Food price index, and AMIS, and others, 

“By providing timely and up-to-date information to enhance food market transparency and policy response for food security through professional assessments and analyses.  Since the start of 2022, FAO has produced 9 information notes, 8 food price index updates, 9 thematic reports, 8 policy proposals, and held numerous informal consultations with all members and regional and sub-regional groups, which have been highly appreciated by all. We have provided guidance and technical support to international initiatives and meetings from the G7 to the G20, from UNGA to the African Union, to APEC, to the EU and others,” the statement stated. 

“We have shown the world that FAO is a reliable, neutral, professional service provider for all members, which has resulted in increased trust and investment in FAO — and which enables us to better support members,” the director general’s statement further read. 

The statement also mentioned that over the past 10 months, FAO members have endorsed two key thematic strategies, on science and innovation, and on climate change, to be implemented in synergy and coherently.

“These are game changers that will spur the implementation of the FAO strategic framework over the next decade. Next week, the World Food forum will officially open, with the focus on 3 key areas: hand-in-hand investment; global youth in agriculture; and science and innovation. The UN Food system summit follow-up coordination hub, hosted by FAO on behalf of the UN system together with IFAD and WFP, is helping countries implement and take ownership and partnership of national pathways for the transformation of their agrifood systems,” the Director General disclosed. 

The statement added that FAO’s action plan for the coming years includes 20 priority program areas under the overall guidance, such as integrated water management for food security and climate change, soil mapping, promotion of one country one priority product, digital agriculture and food, and the green cities initiative, among others. 

“All these prospects make me optimistic that next year we will celebrate World Food Day with a more hopeful scenario. But we need to act now, do more and better  together. In the face of a looming global food crisis, we need to harness the power of solidarity and collective momentum to build a better future where everyone has regular access to enough nutritious food,” the statement mentioned. 

The Director General’s statement further expressed the need for nations to double efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for zero hunger for everyone, everywhere.

“The transformation of our agrifood systems is critical if we want to honor our pledge to  leave no one behind. Only more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable global agrifood  systems can help to solve global interconnected problems,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, the Director General said that leaving no one behind means addressing all of these dimensions in a holistic manner, and simultaneously.

“Giving our Youth the opportunities they need, unleashing the creativity they possess; the future is in their hands, the planet is their home to stay,” the statement said.