Why are People Hungry?

Readers Question: Are People hungry because the world does not produce enough food?

No. Essentially it is a problem of distribution. In particular, in developing countries, many people lack sufficient income to buy enough food

The United Nations, World Food Programme WFP, states

  • 925 million people do not have enough to eat and 98 percent of them live in developing countries. (Source: FAO news release, 14 September 2010)
  • Hunger is the biggest killer in the world.
  • 25% of Children in developing countries are underweight.

Yet despite the prevalence of absolute poverty and malnourishment in the developing world, food production currently exceeds demand. In the developed world, there is often a surplus of food. In the past, the EU has destroyed excess food production from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Food is often wasted.

It is estimated that to satisfy the world’s sanitation and food requirements would cost only US$13 billion. (Facts on world hunger)

What is Hunger?

  • Insufficient calories leading to undernourishment
  • Malnourishment – Insufficiently balanced diet without access to necessary food groups, vitamins and minerals leading to poor nutrition

Why Does Hunger Exist?

  1. Temporary Crisis, e.g. draught, war which disrupts local regional food supplies. These crisis like Ethiopian famine (1984) are perhaps the most visible display of under-nourishment. These extreme cases of hunger often have their sources in a failure of local harvest or civil war. However, according to the FAO, this only account for 8% of the world’s hunger.
  2. Insufficient Income / Absolute Poverty. The problem of hunger is often a problem of relative poverty and insufficient income. In developing countries, incomes may be below the threshold necessary to purchase sufficient quantities of food.
  3. According to Unicef, nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion – a majority of humanity – live on less than $1 per day,
  4. A substantial reason for hunger can be traced to the issue of low income and the prevalence of absolute poverty. This global poverty has a myriad of causes related to the inequitable distribution of resources in countries, unemployed, lack of sufficiently paid jobs and generally a lack of economic development.
  5. Lack of Welfare state. In many developing countries, there is no welfare state to provide a basic safety net to provide income to meet basic needs. It is worth bearing in mind, Western countries like the UK had the same problem of hunger issues in Nineteenth-Century due to low paid work, unemployment, and no provision for supporting those with insufficient income to buy food.

Solutions to Hunger

  • Direct Aid. In cases of famine and crisis, food can be directly sent. However, in the long-term, sending aid creates the problem. A more long-lasting solution is to promote economic development and incomes to enable people to be able to afford sufficient food.
  • Improving agricultural production in developing countries. Improving agricultural production can help improve incomes of farmers.

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