Overview of World Hunger
For millions of people, the fight against hunger is a matter of life and death. 841 million people in the world do not have enough food to eat, including 153 million children under the age of 5 years. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' estimates that 6 million children die each year as a result of hunger and malnutrition. There is no other natural or manmade disaster that compares to the magnitude of devastation caused by world hunger.
Who is Hungry?
841 million people suffer from hunger, malnutrition and famine across the world; 550 million hungry people live in Asia and 170 million in sub-saharan Africa. In total, 95% of people experiencing hunger live in developing countries. However, hunger has recently grown in severity in countries like the United States and former Soviet Union countries, mainly as a result of poverty.
The World Bank estimates that by the end of 2010, 89 million more people will be living in extreme poverty-- surviving off less than $1.25 per day.
The Extent of the Problem
- 40,000 children under age five die every day from hunger and preventable diseases. That's 24 children a minute; equal to three 747's crashing every hour, every day, all year.
- The loss of human life from hunger is greater than if an atomic bomb were to be dropped on a densely populated area every three days.
- One in every five people in the world is hungry.
- More people have died from hunger in the past two years that were killed in World War I and World War II combined.
- 70% of childhood deaths are associated with malnutrition and preventable diseases.
- 70% of people in Asia live in extreme poverty.
Causes of world hunger include political, economic, and environmental factors.
War is a primary cause of hunger. By following a map of recent wars in developing countries, one can accurately map famine and malnutrition. Conflict destroys crops and takes labor and other resources out of food production; in addition, food may be used as a political weapon during times of conflict.
The primacy many governments place on military spending is connected to hunger. A disproportionate amount of government money goes to military purposes as opposed to agriculture, education, fishing and preservation of natural resources. Many countries make decisions based upon political considerations, often at the behest of more powerful nations. For instance, more than half of U.S. foreign assistance is "security aid" going to military and political allies.
Many developing countries face tremendous external debt that creates or exacerbates hunger crises. This debt is largely the result of international trade imbalances and mainly affects developing countries in Latin American, Africa, and Asia. Governments must often decide between feeding people and paying off external debt; pressure and threats from lenders often results in persistent hunger and poverty.
The disproportionate competition between small family farmers and powerful agribusinesses is an increasingly common cause of hunger and poverty. Many farmers in developing countries produce cash crops like coffee, cocoa, sugar and cotton for export in order to support their families. However, big agribusinesses are able to shut out any competition from small farmers by buying up the best land, cutting deals with other corporations and governments, and driving prices down so low that small farmers cannot make a living. This is best exemplified by the current coffee crises in Latin America, Asia and Africa, where 25 million farmers are facing economic disaster due to falling coffee prices.
The influence of multinational corporations and other special interests is connected to poverty and hunger in many venues beyond military construction and agriculture. As a result of policies like the North American Free Trade Agreements (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), multinational corporations now have more leeway than ever to hire workers at slave wages and pressure foreign governments for favorable treatment at the expense of the public. In addition, the influence of special interests over foreign aid from countries like the United States negatively affects poor communities; for example, a large amount of U.S. aid goes to fund large infrastructure projects that are often built by U.S. companies and whose profits benefit U.S. shareholders rather than local communities.
Land degradation and the deforestation of lands, often by big businesses, are a cause of hunger. As lands are clear-cut for cattle ranching or farms, they are left unprotected from wind and water erosion. In addition, economic pressures force many farmers to adopt farming practices which meet short-term needs but cause long-term damage to the environment. This results in unsustainable farming techniques that often ruin land for future use. This results is land that produces fewer or no crops and is more vulnerable to erosion in the event of drought, floods, or heavy winds.
We have the resources and knowledge to end world hunger. There is plenty of food produced across the world each day to feed every woman, man, and child; however, the aforementioned factors lead to skewed access and distribution, leaving millions in desperation.