FAO honors Thailand for achieving Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger and malnutrition

TF Jun 15_2Thailand was among a handful of countries honored for reducing hunger and malnutrition, the first Millennium Development Goal, by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations at the Organization’s annual meeting in Rome, Italy last week.

Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Petipong Pungbun Na Ayudhya received the honor in Rome on behalf of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, although the achievement can be credited to the work of all Thai governments in recent decades. Since 1990, Thailand has slashed the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition from 19.8 million to 5 million.  Even more impressive, the percentage of the population suffering from hunger and malnutrition has dropped from 34.6 percent to 7.4 percent during the same period.

The first of the eight Millennium Development Goals calls for ending poverty and extreme hunger, with a target for countries to reduce their numbers of hungry and malnourished people by half by 2015. Thailand has easily exceeded that target, and is one of 72 out of 194 FAO member countries to have successfully achieved the goal.

Minister Petipong attributed Thailand’s success to its continuous implementation of development policies in the areas of food and agriculture, public health and education.

Thailand is a farming and food production powerhouse, and is the world’s leading exporter of rice. Its jasmine fragrant rice is one of the highest qualities and most sought after varieties of the grain.

Reductions in hunger and malnutrition can also be attributed to the country’s extensive infrastructure development, which has made reaching impoverished communities in mountainous areas or on the country’s margins much easier.

In addition, the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy of constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej has also contributed to a reduction in hunger and malnutrition. The philosophy includes guidance for farmers on diversifying crops, poultry, livestock and fish farming to build resiliency and protect against droughts, floods and the vicissitudes of the marketplace that can lead to hunger.

In 1995, FAO awarded King Bhumibol its Agricola Medal. “As the majority of the people depend on agriculture for their living, that is where His Majesty’s major interests and efforts are focused,’’ FAO said. It reissued the medal in 2006 on the occasion of the King’s 50th anniversary on the throne.

In 1979, FAO also awarded Queen Sirikit its Ceres Gold Medal for her work among rural women, much of which improved livelihoods and education, the result of which is a reduction in hunger and poverty among them and their children.

Most recently, on 3 June 2015, FAO paid tribute to Princess Sirindhorn for lifetime promotion of child nutrition and food security.

Thailand’s public health system has also been praised by U.N. agencies as a model for developing countries. Access to health care, along with education, is a crucial component in preventing and reducing hunger and malnutrition.

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