Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Staggering Numbers

790 million
850 million
960 million

Do these numbers mean anything to you?

Let me just say that they do not represent good news in any way. In fact, quite the opposite.

These figures represent the number of chronically hungry people in the world: those consuming under 1,800 calories a day.

What makes the numbers (from the World Bank's 2009 Global Monitoring Report) more significant is that they get progressively worse. The one on the left is for 2000, the one in the middle is for 2007 and the one on the far right is for 2008. 

And it gets even worse.

By mid-October 2009, the figure had risen to over 1 billion people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, U.N. consultant Justin Frewen said in an opinion piece written for Worldpress.org and dated Feb. 21. To put this in perspective, this total exceeds the combined population of the European Union, the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Frewen notes that "despite the expenditure of billions of dollars on development aid and the launch of high-profile initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, the blight of hunger has not been defeated. If anything, its grip on hundreds of millions of people is as tight as ever.

It is important to remember that deaths caused by hunger are generally the result of chronic malnutrition rather than starvation, said Frewen, who has worked in the area of development for the U.N. since 1997.

Frewen argues that the problem is structural.
Tragically, this situation exists in a "world of plenty" where, despite a 70 percent population increase over the past 30 years, agriculture globally is producing 17 percent more calories per person today than it was then. We would appear, therefore, to live in a world where hundreds of millions go to bed hungry simply because they are too poor to be able to purchase sufficient food.
But he does offer a solution
What is required is a complete rethinking of the manner in which agricultural production in the South, and indeed in the North, is viewed almost exclusively in terms of its market value, with scant consideration being given to the nutritional needs of people, particularly those living in poverty.
There is much more to this thought-provoking Op-Ed piece than the few snippets I have thrown out there.  I recommend that you read the full article 

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