Hunger in a world of plenty

Page - February 8, 2010
Ending world hunger is one of the noblest and most achievable causes of our time. There is a common misconception that food shortage causes one out of seven people to go to bed hungry every night, but the truth is we currently produce enough healthy food to feed the whole world. In fact, we currently produce enough healthy food to nourish nine billion people – the estimated population of Earth 40 years from today.

So why is it that the number of hungry has steeply increased over the past three years and reached an historic peak of about one billion victims?  Political obstacles and failures are the cause of hunger, and are responsible for five million children dying from hunger every year.

Among these challenges are wars and violent conflicts, increasing inequity, discrimination, exploitation, corruption, and ignorance of the urban elites toward rural development. They are complemented by global market forces and international policies fuelling and exacerbating these failures on a global level. These forces and policies include unfair terms of trade and subsidies, concentration of market power, speculation in land and commodities as well as imposition of flawed economic and development strategies by international financial institutions and foreign investment in detrimental projects and ventures.

Farmers going Hungry

Most hungry people today actually live in countries that are exporters of agricultural products.  Over 70 percent of them live in rural areas and about 50 percent are small-scale farmers, especially in Asia and Africa.

In India, the total food available to each person actually increased, but greater hunger prevailed because of the unequal access to food and resources. The remarkable difference in China, where the number of hungry dropped from 406 million to 189 million, begs the question, "Which has been more effective in reducing hunger, the Green Revolution or the Chinese revolution?"

There are 54 million people suffering malnutrition in the region, while the amount of food produced is three times the amount consumed. Hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean are not the result of the inability to produce enough food; therefore, increasing production will not solve the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the region.

Fighting Hunger

World hunger is arguably the worst global assault on human rights and dignity. It is a threat to peace and a source of national instability, displacement, migration and violent conflict and the most important impediment to social progress in the regions affected. It is also a driver of environmental degradation and depletion in many regions of the world. 

Fortunately, the solution to ending world hunger is straightforward and realistic.  We must enable the rural poor to produce sufficient and healthy food for their families, communities and local markets by providing them with the basic means to do so: access to land, water, know-how and education, human rights, including gender equality, as well as access to minimum financial means and regional markets.

You said a Mouthful: Hunger Quotes over 45 Years

"So long as freedom from hunger is only half achieved, so long as two-thirds of the nations have food deficits, no citizen, no nation can afford to be satisfied. We have the ability, as members of the human race, we have the means, we have the capacity to eliminate hunger from the face of the earth in our lifetime. We only need the will."  --President J. F. Kennedy, World Food Congress, Washington D.C., 1963

"The profound comment of our era is that for the first time we have the technical capacity to free mankind from the scourge of hunger. Therefore today we must proclaim a bold objective: that within a decade no child will go to bed hungry, that no family will fear for its next day bread and that no human being's future and well being will be stunted by malnutrition."  --Dr.  Henry Kissinger, World Food Conference, Rome, 1974

"We believe that it is indeed possible to end world hunger by the year 2000. More than ever before, humanity possesses the resources, capital, technology and knowledge to promote development and to feed all people, both now and in the foreseeable future. By the year 2000 all the world's people and all its children can be fed and nourished. Only a modest expenditure is needed each year - a tiny fraction of total expenditure which amounts to $650 billion a year. What is required is the political will to put first things first and to give absolute priority to freedom from hunger."  --FAO World Food Colloquium, 1992

"We pledge our political will and our common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015."  --Rome Declaration on World Food Security, World Food Summit, 1996

"We resolve further:  To halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's people whose income is less than one dollar a day and the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and, by the same date, to halve the proportion of people who are unable to reach or to afford safe drinking water."  --United Nations Millennium Declaration, New York, 2000

"We renew our global commitments made in the Rome Declaration at the World Food Summit in 1996 in particular to halve the number of hungry in the world no later than 2015, as reaffirmed in the United Nations Millennium Declaration. We resolve to accelerate the implementation of the WFS Plan of Action."  --Declaration of the World Food Summit: five years later, Rome, 2002

"We reaffirm the conclusions of the World Food Summit in 1996, which adopted the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action, and the objective, confirmed by the World Food Summit: five years later, of achieving food security for all through an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing by half the number of undernourished people by no later than 2015, as well as our commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)."  --Declaration of the High-Level Conference on World Food  Security, Rome, June 2008

"The 2000 Millennium Declaration aimed to halve the proportion of the world population facing poverty and undernourishment by the year 2015; the world is very far from reaching this goal according to the alarming data provided by the relevant international bodies.

"We reiterate our determination to defeat hunger and to ensure access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food for present and future generations."  --Declaration of the G8 agricultural ministers meeting, Cison di Valmarino, April 2009