Friday, April 06, 2012

'The Want or Scarcity of Food'

The World Hunger Education Service (WHES) recently published its 2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts Statistics as part of its Hunger Notes series. The report uses statistics from the World Food Organization (FAO) and other agencies to provide a good context about the current state of global hunger. The report included this chart from the FAO, which looks at statistics for the number of hungry people in the world in 2010. 
For those of us who have been involved in the anti-hunger movement, the concepts and statistics are all too familiar, including the definition of hunger  as "the want or scarcity of food" (Oxford English Dictionary). 

And many of these themes in the WHES report have been addressed in recent Hunger Reports published by the Bread for the World Institute.

Still, there are some points in this report that bear repeating:
  • In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. Thus, with an estimated 925 million hungry people in the world, 13.1 percent, or almost 1 in 7 people are hungry
  • The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. 
  • Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. The causes of poverty include poor people's lack of resources, an extremely unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict, and hunger itself. 
  • Harmful economic systems are the principal cause of poverty and hunger. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they do.
  • Climate change is increasingly viewed as a current and future cause of hunger and poverty. Increasing drought, flooding, and changing climatic patterns requiring a shift in crops and farming practices that may not be easily accomplished are three key issues. 
Click here to read full report

And here is the bottom line
The target set at the 1996 World Food Summit was to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015 from their number in 1990-92. (FAO uses three year averages in its calculation of undernourished people.) The (estimated) number of undernourished people in developing countries  was 824 million in 1990-92. In 2010, the number had climbed to 925 million people. The WFS goal is a global goal adopted by the nations of the world; the present outcome indicates how marginal the efforts were in face of the real need. So, overall,  the world is not making progress toward the world food summit goal, although there has been progress in Asia, and in Latin America and the Caribbean.
So in other words, the global community has the resources to end global hunger and poverty and the awareness of the steps that must be taken to address the problem (i.e. the Millennium Development Goals).  And even though the MDGs have helped support progress in some countries, the aggregate problem has not been resolved. We can speculate about obstacles, including the recent global economic downturn and recently high fuel prices.  But even those contingencies cannot mask the real problem: a gap in the political will to make the necessary structural changes.

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