The 2023 Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia is the ninth Europe and Central Asia (ECA) report monitoring regional trends and progress made towards reaching Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 food security and nutrition targets. SDG 2, often referred to as the “Zero Hunger” goal, aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.

Seven years are left to achieve the SDG 2 goals of ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. The ECA region is mostly on track to achieve hunger and food security targets despite serious challenges experienced in the past couple of years. In 2022, food security and nutrition throughout the world and in the ECA region were challenged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the start of war in Ukraine alongside adverse weather events stemming from climate change. In addition to these overlapping shocks, the ECA region also experienced devastating earthquakes in Türkiye, a severe drought in the Republic of Moldova and the large displacement of people escaping the war in Ukraine. These shocks have led to higher food and energy prices, increased costs of agricultural inputs and production, high tariffs of transportation and transition, reduced purchasing power, and increased cost of living. Many of these costs reached all-time high levels in mid-2022.

While the shocks have adversely affected efforts to end hunger and improve food security and nutrition, the most recent estimates for 2022 generally reveal a low prevalence of hunger and food insecurity in the ECA region compared to the world average. In 2022, the estimated number of moderately or severely food-insecure people living without access to safe, nutritious and adequate food declined by 4.7 million.

Progress has been made in most countries of the ECA region in reducing various forms of malnutrition, including child stunting, child wasting and low birthweight. However, the region is in a worse position overall regarding the prevalence of childhood overweight and adult obesity. In 2022, the prevalence of overweight children under 5 years of age in the ECA region was 7.1 percent, higher than the global estimate of 5.7 percent. Adult obesity is on the rise in all subregions and all countries in the ECA region and consistently has been above global levels.

Healthy diets that contain balanced, diverse, nutritious and appropriately selected foods influence health and nutrition and promote the prevention of common non-communicable diseases. This 2023 edition of the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia provides updates on the cost and affordability of a healthy diet for 2021 in the region. The analysis shows that the average cost of a healthy diet has increased in the ECA region and almost all its subregions because of rising inflation. Nevertheless, the number of people who cannot afford a healthy diet has declined by 25.7 million. This can be explained by increased incomes among the population in 2021 compared to the previous year, when purchasing power declined drastically due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While ECA countries are working to achieve the SDGs, the promotion of healthy diets has been challenging. As highlighted in the eighth edition of this report in 2022, this would require an agrifood system transformation that places the repurposing of food and agricultural policies at the centre of addressing challenges related to food security, nutrition and health; the livelihoods of farmers and others connected to the agriculture sector; and environmental sustainability.

Sustainable, resilient, inclusive and efficient agrifood systems that support and promote affordable healthy diets for all require adequate policy options and close collaboration and coordination among multiple sectors within and outside of agrifood systems. The needs of vulnerable groups such as small-scale family farmers, women and youth must be the focus of regional and national programmes and projects directed to agrifood systems transformation. These programmes and projects also should contribute to reducing the environmental footprint of agrifood systems and to making healthy diets more affordable.

As with previous editions of the Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition in Europe and Central Asia, we hope that this report provides valuable information that can contribute to effective intersectoral collaboration, including with civil society organizations and the private sector, to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDG 2 goal of a hunger-free, food-secure and healthy Europe and Central Asia. Strong political will and considerable efforts from many stakeholders are needed to transition to agrifood systems that help provide better production, better nutrition, a better environment and better lives for all, leaving no one behind. Our Organization stands firmly committed and ready to support governments in their efforts at regional and national levels.

Godfrey Magwenzi
Director of Cabinet
Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia FAO