no spam, unsubscribe anytime.
For most of us, hunger is short-term problem with a simple and foreseeable solution: easy access to a wide array of food and nutrition choices. But for one-eighth of all of the people in the world, hunger is a daily, inescapable reality.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 868 million people across the world are suffering from chronic hunger, emphasizing that although it has declined for the first time in fifteen years, that number remains "unacceptably high." FAO Director-General Jaques Diouf states: "The silent hunger crisis affecting humanity poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions."
The risk factors facing malnourished people are dramatic; the results are catastrophic. Estimates indicate that 53 percent of deaths among pre-school age children in the developing world are due to complications caused by malnutrition on top of diseases such as measles, pneumonia, and diarrhea.2
"We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions."
—Food and Agriculture Director-General Jaques Diouf
"The world has the resources to address all the problems [of hunger] with the technology and the global wealth that exists. However, do we have the will and commitment to do so?"4 The many causes of hunger and malnutrition seem simple; yet ending hunger remains difficult to achieve. In order to understand the elusive solution, we need first to examine the interconnectedness of the root causes of persistent famine and malnutrition.
Poverty is at the core of the world hunger crisis. The regions across the world that are subjected to extreme poverty conditions are at more risk to have their terrible situation exacerbated by outside forces such as natural disasters and war/conflict, thereby further deepening their difficult situation.
"In short, the poor are hungry and their hunger traps them in poverty."
—World Food Programme5
As time goes on, it becomes more and more difficult for individuals, communities, and countries to come out from underneath the heavy blanket of poverty. As the World Food Programme states: "The poverty/stricken do not have enough money to buy or produce enough food for themselves and their families. In turn, they tend to be weaker and cannot produce enough to buy more food."5 They are caught in a horrible cycle.
Natural disasters cause famine, hunger, and poverty in areas of the world that are already predisposed to crisis. In regions where food production and availability is only marginally sufficient to provide a sustainable food supply for its population, this precarious predicament intensifies when drought or other natural disasters wipe out entire crops. Once a region's food production and supply has been severely degraded, it becomes increasingly necessary for that region to import food and supplies. However, many of these countries lack the funding and supportive government infrastructure that will allow for the necessary, life-saving food and supplies to be brought into the country.
As significant and devastating as natural disasters are as an impetus for famine, humans and their activities are increasingly responsible for sustained hunger emergencies. Since 1992, the proportion of short-term and long-term food crises that can be attributed to human causes has more than doubled, rising from 15 percent to more than 35 percent. All too often, these emergencies are triggered by conflict.5
"The world's poorest countries are disproportionately likely to be at war."
As with natural disasters, once a region is in a state of emergency, getting needed resources into the area can be extremely daunting. And, to make matters worse, "The world's poorest countries are disproportionately likely to be at war. Studies suggest that poverty and economic stagnation cause conflicts, and conflicts, of course, aggravate poverty..."6
Regions that are already at more risk of being negatively impacted by human generated conflict are more likely to suffer. And, taken further, food "becomes a weapon. Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields and water wells are often mined orcontaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land."5
Physical suffering is only the initial impact of hunger and famine on impoverished individuals. Over time, every aspect of normal life is compromised and drastically diminished for entire families and communities. This "behavioral shift [creates] an emotional analogue in apathy (including reduced appetite) and irritability. The costs are obviously reductions in work, in socializing, and, for children, in the interaction with their environment that contributes to their learning and development."7
As communities fall prey to hunger, the effects of poverty deepen, spreading through entire regions and countries. In fact, "whole populations may be forced to migrate in search of food, in the process disrupting development potential in a locality or region and encouraging political disorder and conflict."7 Eventually, chronic, widespread hunger destroys generations of individuals who are trapped in a life which is full of sadness and almost insurmountable barriers.
"The most reliable defense against war seems to be economic growth."
Like you, we want to help solve the global and yet very personal problem of hunger. Although it does seem an overwhelming task, there is hope for a solution, provided the interlocking factors that contribute to hunger are simultaneously addressed. As Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics states: "The tendency to think of growing more food as the only way of solving a food problem is strong and tempting, and often it does have some rationale. But the picture is more complex than that."8
We must continue to alleviate the immediate suffering of the hungry by sending food to families in need, but we must concurrently move toward economic solutions that will end the poverty cycle. The path to long-term life-saving economic stability and growth will come through a concentrated effort by a committed group of world citizens working together to cultivate peace.
3 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (2005). The State of Food Insecurity in the World. Retrieved May 20, 2007, from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Web site "
6 The poor man's curse; Civil wars. (Preventing civil war). The Economist (US) 367.8325 (May 24, 2003): p11US. (657 words)