The greatest scandal of our age is the fact that just under 1 billion people on the planet go to bed hungry every night. This is despite the fact that we produce more than enough to feed every single person in the world. The problem is not a shortage but rather that the undernourished who need food most cannot access it.
People who are chronically hungry don’t eat enough to provide the energy they need for an active life. Their undernourishment makes it hard to study, work or perform physical activities. Undernourishment is particularly harmful for women and children. Undernourished children do not grow as quickly as healthy children and mentally they may develop more slowly. Constant hunger weakens the immune system and makes people more vulnerable to diseases. Mothers living with constant hunger often give birth to underweight and weak babies, and face increased risk of death in childbirth.
Global Effects of Hunger
Hunger does not only weigh on the individual. It also imposes a crushing economic burden on the developing world. Economists estimate that every child whose physical and mental development is stunted by hunger and malnutrition stands to lose 5-10 percent in lifetime earnings.
“We also should remember that Food is good business. When nations solve the problem it fuels their economy” Josette Sheeran – Executive Director of World Food Proramme, September 2010
Can the world Feed itself?
The short answer is: “Yes”, but before we go further, an explanation of why we should be discussing hunger is necessary. Understanding hunger, in all of its forms and consequences, is critical to addressing the problem in an effective and sustainable manner. In the developed world, we need to understand that hunger is more than just the mild annoyance suggested by our everyday experience of awaiting a meal, but is a life/threatening issue for millions around the globe.
Video: School meals in Kibera
There are 925 million undernourished people in the world today. That means one in seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life. Hunger and malnutrition are in fact the number one risk to the health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
WFP’s Executive Director, speaking to the International Press Club in Washington DC in the wake of the September 2010 conference on progress towards the MDGs had this to say:
“My personal awakening of the devastating power of hunger happened in 1986. I just had my first child and I was feeding her and watching television. I saw an Ethiopian mother with a child the same age as my baby who was crying very weakly for food. And the mother had no milk in her breasts to feed the baby and she had no food for herself. And I thought there can’t be anything more painful than not being able to answer your child’s call for food. What struck me at the time, and remains with me now, is that there was enough food in the world for everyone to eat. During the food crisis in 2008 there was enough food for everyone in the world to have 2,700 kilocalories. Yet a silent tsunami threw more than 115 million into abject hunger."
Solving World Hunger is not rocket science
We have the tools, and the technology to put an end to hunger. There is enough food to go around. So what needs to change? To begin with, we need to start talking about hunger, and not just when there is a crisis somewhere in the world. In these days of economic upheaval, it makes sound long-term financial sense to lift nations and populations out of hunger:
“Defeating hunger is a realistic goal for our time, as long as lasting political, economic, financial and technical solutions are adopted.” Jacques Diouf, Director-General
UN Food and Agriculture Organization