"Hunger Is The World's No. 1 Health Risk. It Kills More People Every Year Than AIDS, Malaria, And Tuberculosis Combined" - World Food Programme, United Nations
World Hunger – A Reality Check
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hunger as “craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient; an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food; a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food”. In our study of World Hunger it is this condition of prolonged lack of food that we shall study. When we start to count all the impoverished people of the world and study the lack of resources to fulfill their daily dietary needs, we start to understand what is meant by World Hunger and why it is such a huge concern.
By 2010, it was estimated that over 925 million people in the world went hungry daily. Out of these 925 million, Asia and the Pacific alone recorded over 578 million people who went hungry regularly. Sub-Saharan Africa came next with 239 million people unable to feed themselves. While Latin America and the Caribbean recorded 53 million, North Africa and the Near East reported about 37 million and the developed nations accounted for the remaining 19 million hungry people. By 2011, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger was well above a billion. Another major concern that goes with World Hunger is that of Malnutrition.
Seven Billion And More
Is the burgeoning world population to blame? On October 31, 2011, the United Nations announced that the population of the world had crossed the seven billion mark. In the course of evolution, the world took over 250,000 years to reach the one billion mark but the population explosion of the recent centuries has triggered off grave concerns. One look at the population milestones reveals a neat picture of what may be a possible reason for the current condition. The world gained a population of one billion in 1804. It took more than 123 years to gain the next billion. By 1927 the world population was pegged at 2 billion. The 3 billion mark was reached within a short span of 32 years, in 1959. Again, within 14 years, in 1974, the world population reached 4 billion. In 1987, the world announced a population of 5 billion and by 1999 it was estimated to have crossed the 6 billion mark. With such an explosive growth, the first concern is our ability to feed the ever-growing masses. The United Nations predicts that world population is likely to reach the 8 billion mark by 2025 and by 2083 this figure is likely to reach 10 billion. Food supply grows at a fixed quantity each year but the growth of population is exponential.
Is There Enough Food?
Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus was one of the earliest thinkers to predict a grave shortage of food supplies as a result of population growth. Rev Malthus lived in the latter part of the 18th and the early 19th centuries. In his Essay On The Principle Of Population he predicted that unless population was checked effectively or unless a ‘Malthusian catastrophe' were to occur, the population would far outstrip the world's ability to feed all of humanity. Economists of the twentieth century criticized his theories since Rev Malthus had not estimated the role technology would play in boosting the food supplies of the world. Nor did he anticipate the effectiveness of birth control in the following centuries.
The United Nations, however, does not subscribe to this thought. The World Food Programme went on record to state that there is “enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life”. This effectively means that the combined food resources of the world are quite enough to combat World Hunger but the main concern is immediate availability of food in some parts of the globe.
Now what makes food scarce in some nations and regions and aplenty in others? Natural disasters such as floods and famine or exploitation of the natural environment are important reasons why localized scarcity of food supplies occurs in a region. Political conflict, war, civil unrest, and other disturbances result in a sharp increase in food prices making it difficult for economically backward classes to access adequate supplies. Poor agricultural practices and lack of infrastructure support is another reason food crops fail to produce adequate supplies. By far the most important reason for such imbalance in global food supplies is poverty and economic crisis.
The Hunger Crisis
The enormity of World Hunger can be gauged by looking at the following statistics -
A look at the other end of the spectrum is also surprising. There are over 519 million obese people in the world. In the US alone, 40 million tons of food is wasted each year. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, over 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year the world over.
Is A Solution In Sight?
There clearly seems to be no simple solution to the eradication of World Hunger. While GE Crops (Genetically-Modified Crops) and advanced agricultural technologies do promise to boost the production of food crops, the contribution of advanced nations in assisting and sharing such technology cannot be undermined. Advanced agricultural and biotechnological research is one reason the yield is high is some countries. The sharing of best practices to boost global production is certainly part of the agenda of the UN and other international bodies. Voluntary aid and assistance to countries affected by natural disasters such as famine is another significant attempt at combating hunger. Besides the humanitarian agencies of the United Nations, voluntary organizations and neighboring countries often provide relief.
How Can You Make A Difference?
Fighting Global Hunger is as much an individual effort as the responsibility of governments, organizations, and communities. The following are some efforts individuals can make to help feed the 1 billion hungry people of the world -
Donate A Day’s Pay – Make a commitment to donate at least one day’s pay or wages each year towards alleviation of poverty and eradication of world hunger. What may seem a small contribution is a huge amount towards saving the lives of those who cannot afford a single dollar worth of food a day.
Distribute and Donate – Curb the wastage of food by arranging for anti-hunger organizations to pick up excess food when you are throwing a party or a get together. What is better is if you could urge your colleagues, family, friends, and community members to give away all excess food to charity organizations or to the impoverished communities.
Celebrate the Brotherhood – Celebrate your joyous occasions by making a difference. Decide to donate the amount you’d planned to spend on a birthday or a graduation party towards feeding the hungry people in some part of the globe. Make kindness just another way of sharing your happiness.
Play, Click, Buy – If you are an online games enthusiast play your games on sites such as freerice.com which help earn rice to be distributed through the World Food Program. Click on the Free Donation button at thehungersite.com and allow the sponsors to donate on your behalf. Buy your retail products from brands that donate a percentage of their profits to eradication of hunger.
Spread The Word – Spreading the awareness is possibly the biggest contribution any individual can make. In these days the impact of the Internet and Social Media is far reaching, it is quite easy to get a number of people interested in a genuine cause and associating with an anti-poverty organization. Volunteer, donate, connect, and help.
Organizations and Programs
The UN sponsored World Food Program is one of the leading programs committed to combat World Hunger and the largest anti-hunger humanitarian agency. The ONE network connects over 2.5 million people world-wide and fights extreme poverty in an attempt to combat hunger, malnutrition, and preventable diseases.
The Global Hunger Alliance is a coalition of organizations from across the world, united in their commitment to eradicate hunger and water crisis. Another leading organization that fights hunger and poverty the world over is CARE. Their Partners for Change program attempts to connect people from across the world. Oxfam International is also a confederation of 17 organizations in 92 countries. Most of their programs are designed to secure basic rights, and poverty eradication. ReliefWeb provides research, training, and support to the disaster-struck countries of the world.
Within the US, a number of organizations have come up with strong initiatives to help alleviate World Hunger. Bread for the World is one such organization known for its strong activism, its propaganda, and lobby to influence the Congress and US lawmakers. The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is a nonprofit organization that works to unite people from all over the country in an anti-hunger support network. The Bay Area International Development Organizations works closely with regional non-profit organizations to initiate poverty eradication and development work. The Center of Concern is another US agency that works to educate the public. The Hunger Project promoted global brotherhood and fights for the eradication of poverty. RESULTS, though an international organization is very active in the US and helps collect aid for the alleviation of World Hunger. Apart from these, a number of religious organizations in the US such as Adventist Development and Relief Agency International, Catholic Relief Services, Church World Service, and NETWORK have been working tirelessly to bring relief and social development both at home and in developing countries.
Food Aid and Other Issues
While on the one hand the ideal solution to ending food hunger seems to be export of food aid by countries where food is available aplenty, to countries which are highly affected by hunger, food aid is also mired by issues such as dumping. In 2005, the Oxfam Briefing Paper - Food Aid Or Hidden Dumping says “Food aid has also been used for less noble aims, including to dump surplus production and promote donor country exports. This type of food aid hurts poor farmers and distorts international trade. Strong disciplines against abuse of food aid must be agreed”
Another growing concern is export of food while facing an indigenous hunger crisis. Between January and December 2005, agriculture-related food exports in India were pegged at about $4.9 billion. One would assume by a look at these figures that India would not suffer from chronic hunger. But by 2010, reports revealed that over 300 million Indians go hungry each day. Recent reports suggest that about 24% of the children between 0 and 6 years go hungry in India.
Food has historically been used as a political tool in many parts of the world. The most infamous of these cases was the Bengal Famine of 1943 in which over 1.5 million people died. The famine was not caused by a slump in food production or a downfall in the growth or crops but because the colonial overlords had exported the food grown in Bengal for commercial purposes.
Global Hunger Index
Since 2006, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in association with the non-profit organization Welthungerhilfe, has been publishing the Global Hunger Index. This index computes the hunger situation in various countries of the world and measures the progress of each country in fighting hunger. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) studies a number of factors including the country’s economic standards and malnutrition rates in this attempt to rank countries. In 2011, of the 122 countries which had their GHI calculated, 81 were ranked. According to 2010 GHI rankings, the top 10 countries successful in reducing hunger were Kuwait, Malaysia, Turkey, Mexico, Tunisia, Nicaragua, Ghana, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Peru. According to the same report hunger increased most in Congo (DRC), Comoros, Burundi, North Korea, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, and the Gambia.
Despite all the relief and aid efforts currently undertaken why is it that World Hunger still remains one of the grave concerns faced by mankind? Why is it that the number of chronically hungry people in the world is more than the combined population of the US, Canada, and the EU? Is there indeed an imbalance in the population of the world and the supply of food? Or is there adequate food to go around but a disparity in the availability?
Is There A Solution To Global Hunger?