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Food Insecurity and Malnutrition Across the Rural-Urban Continuum: A Global Perspective

By Roberta Fortugno

Food insecurity knows no boundaries between rural and urban areas. As confirmed by the data provided by the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023 Report, hunger afflicts populations across the rural-urban continuum, challenging the assumption according to which food insecurity is an exclusive rural concern.

This is true even if, according to the Degree of Urbanization (DEGURBA) classification, food insecurity is generally lower in urban areas when compared to rural regions at the global level. This finding is consistent with the perception that urban areas offer better access to resources and employment opportunities. However, it's important to note that this trend is not uniform across all regions, leading to context-specific differences that defy simple generalizations.

At the regional level, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean follow the global trend of lower food insecurity in urban areas. A statistic stat is in line with the assumption that urbanization often brings economic opportunities and improved food access. However, Asia, Northern America, and Europe do not conform to this pattern, suggesting that the urban advantage is not consistent worldwide.

A closer examination of food insecurity ced perspective, Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), and households m nine of the eleven African countries under scrutiny. Surprisingly, it was found that in several of the analyzed nations, the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity in urban and peri-urban regions is either equivalent to or sometimes even higher than in rural areas, thus emphasizing that food insecurity is not an exclusive rural problem in most of these nations.

Further stratification based on food budget categories reveals a divergence between high and low-food-budget countries. The former tends to exhibit uniform levels of food insecurity across the rural-urban continuum, while the latter shows greater disparities. For instance, low-budget African nations like Malawi and Burkina Faso experience significantly lower levels of food insecurity in urban areas compared to rural regions. In contrast, the populous nation of Nigeria faces higher food insecurity in larger cities, largely due to the prevalence of slums.

Beyond food insecurity, the investigation extends to the prevalence of malnutrition in children under five years old. Focusing on three countries: Benin, Nigeria, and Senegal, the data reveals a disconcerting trend where the prevalence of stunting increases as one moves away from urban centers and cities become smaller. In some areas, particularly in Nigeria and Benin, the prevalence of stunting is notably higher in peri-urban zones.

The data also suggests that the proximity to urban centers plays a significant role in the prevalence of stunting in peri-urban areas. This aligns with other studies that emphasize the high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in impoverished peri-urban areas surrounding many African cities. While the prevalence of wasting and overweight in children presents a different story, with less distinct trends across the rural-urban continuum, there are hints of increased wasting in some peri-urban and rural areas in Nigeria and Senegal as well.

In sum, "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023" report reveals that food insecurity is a multifaceted issue that defies simple urban-rural dichotomies. The prevalence of food insecurity and child malnutrition varies significantly across different urbanization contexts. In a rapidly urbanizing world, understanding these dynamics is crucial for developing effective policies and programs that can improve food security and nutritional well-being at local, regional, national, and international levels.

OCCAM acknowledges that food insecurity is not confined to rural areas alone. It's a multifaceted issue that demands a tailored response, accounting for the unique circumstances of each region. As such, not only do we advocate for and emphasize the need for further research to understand better the complexities of food insecurity and malnutrition across the rural-urban continuum, but we are also involved in projects focusing on food security and Sustainable Intensification of agriculture in Africa to further advancements and welfare for all.

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