Hunger – A Global Crisis


Food Crisis is one of the biggest concerns in the world right now and has become a serious issue for developing nations. The widespread food insecurity across the world continues to be a matter of grave concern as one out of eight people goes to sleep hungry every night.

The question is about addressing hunger in a world that produces enough food, but where destitution disallows so many access to it.

The Scale of Crisis

Currently, the world consists of around 7.7 billion people, out of which 925 million or 13.2% of the entire world's population experience hunger, 98% of whom live in developing countries. Approximately 2 billion people suffer from dietary imbalances or micronutrient deficiencies, which some researchers have named "hidden hunger".

212 Million People suffer from undernourishment in Africa alone. The enormity of this crisis is so huge and hard to imagine; however, despite that, uneven progress has been made to control the hunger crisis around the world, especially in a country like Kenya where a whopping 31% of the population is a victim of undernourishment.

According to a recent survey, the sub-Saharan African region has the world's highest proportion of hunger, having one of every three people malnourished. However, it is a sigh of relief to know that the prevalence of undernutrition has decreased over the past thirty-five years. This is happening because the United Nation aims to create a world free from poverty, hunger and disease by the end of the year 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals & Child Stunting

The United Nations has created Sustainable Development Goals (SDG1) which are about 17 goals targeting 169 various outcomes to be achieved by the year 2030 with the primary aim to combat poverty, hunger and promote prosperity while also protecting the environment and tackling the climatic changes.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have been superseded by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that had the aim for zero hunger, combating poverty, diseases, illiteracy, and discrimination against women between the years 2000 – 2015.

Child Stunting also poses a great concern for all the developing countries. When a child has a low height for their age due to malnourishment and other infectious diseases, it is known as stunting. A lot of surveys have shown that a stunted child may also have a poor immune system and slow organ development.

Between 1980 to 2000, the pattern of child stunting has declined greatly from 47% to 33%. It has declined even more since 2000 which is quite a progress to be considered. The vicious cycle of stunting begins when a malnourished girl becomes pregnant. This leads to a malnourished mother, meaning it is more likely that the child will be born underweight.

To prevent child stunting, there are several measures defined by the WHO that needs to be taken in the first 1000 days between the mother's pregnancy and the child's second birthday. With these measures, it is possible to reduce some effects and even reverse some.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) created by the United Nations also aims to reduce the child mortality rate by two-thirds by 2030. A 2015-16 study conducted by National Family Health Survey (NFHS) shows that India is unlikely to achieve the SDG goal of reducing deaths to 25 or less for every 1000 live births under 5-year-old children and 12 or fewer per 1000 live births for newborns by 2030.

Reducing Mortality

Many countries are not on target to reduce the under-five mortality rate aim, especially the sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Currently, 41% of all child deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa alone. East Africa faces the biggest wrath of persistent drought, civil conflicts, and economic problems – all leading to widespread diseases and child hunger.

Somalia, the easternmost country of Africa repeatedly faced one of its most severe droughts between the year 2016 and 2017. Consecutively occurring poor rainy seasons forced the good people of the country into famine with over half of the entire population in desperate need of assistance.

An innumerable amount of live stocks died due to sickness arising out of the crop failures. Fast forwarding the situation to 2019, the rains that did come, were not enough. As a result, the crops failed again and it became difficult to keep livestock alive forcing the communities to plunge again into a crisis.

Food Bank of the World

Food is a constant struggle for many even today. Hunger, as we know it now, is far from being eradicated. International support from developed nations has always played a major role in intending to achieve zero hunger globally. Amongst all developed countries, the United States of America has been the leader for providing all sort of food assistance and aid throughout the world.

Though being the highest contributor, the U.S. funding has significantly changed with a change in the administration of the country. From 20% in 1980 to just a mere 5% in 2007, the U.S. official development assistance has worryingly reduced their support for food funding and other aid.

Consequently, it was President Obama who came in and made significant efforts to improvise these policies during his presidential term. At the G8 summit in 2009, President Obama had pledged an enormous $3.5 billion over three years. The pledged money was to be used towards 20 developing nations across sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, to tackle the food security and hunger crisis.

It would thus be safe to say that the United States, in this context, is also referred to as the food bank of the world. Due to the U.S. policies, the U.S. taxpayers have fed around 3 billion hungry people in around 15 countries, attesting a commitment to the issue at large. However, due to the floundering U.S. leadership, President Donald Trump had shown little concern for the world hunger crisis and no significant improvisations were done with time.

Unless a new smarter food aid policy is created from the world's largest donor, the problem is unlikely to cease soon. Climate change will only make things even worse and hunger will be on the rise.

Achieving the mission of zero hunger to ensure a world free of poverty, hunger and disease would require a joint effort from all of us. There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations and an individual can contribute in a lot of ways. Some basic ideas would be to:

• Using energy saving bulbs and turning off electricity when not in use

• Use natural light whenever possible

• Recycling the paper used for printing

• Paper, plastic, glass, aluminum and other things can be recycled too

• Showers can be shortened to save water

Definition of Hunger & Food Insecurity

It is imperative to understand the definition of all components of hunger including food security, malnutrition and undernutrition. Interestingly, the Harvard School of Public Health defined hunger as the "chronic under consumption of food and nutrients." The researchers at Cornell University added more to this definition saying hunger is an inability to consume an adequate quantity of food in socially acceptable ways (For example, not resorting to emergency food supplies or stealing & hunting food.)

Using the research conducted by Cornell University, a new term "Food Insecurity" was developed by the Life Science Research Organization (LSRO) to develop a wider social context of the lack of food and other resources.

A direct derivative of hunger and food crisis being food insecurity is defined as the disruption in the intake of food because of the lack of money and other means. Food insecurity has four main components:

• Quantity – Refers to the total amount of food available

• Quality – Refers to the available food options

• Psychological – refers to an individual's feelings of scarcity about food

• Social – Refers to an individual's evaluation of their food situation to the society.

People not only require to consume the necessary quantity of food but also consume food having sufficient energy and micronutrients. This creates a necessity to reinforce how important food diversity is for the world, especially the communities that are food-insecure as they have higher incidences of infectious diseases. The two important food components required for any individual to maintain a healthy body are:

• Micronutrients – Consists of water, protein, carbohydrates, fiber and fat

• Macronutrients – Consists of minerals and vitamins

The World Food Programme

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization with an ultimate goal of saving lives with food assistance marching towards their mission of peace, stability and prosperity of people.

Some facts about the World Food Programme

• 100 million people in 88 countries receive food assistance or cash distributions. They are also enrolled in nutrition support programmes and activities to build resilience towards climate and other shocks.

• 5600 Trucks, 100 Aircrafts, & 30 Ships are functional on any given day delivering food and other assistance to the people in need, trying to prevent famine like situations.

• 17.3 million children in more than 50 countries receive meals from the World Food Programme allowing them to develop a healthy body and mind so they can concentrate on learning while enjoying their childhood.

COVID-19 Crisis

While the world was already battling with hunger crisis and food insecurity, COVID-19 has created an even bigger disorder to defeat the problem, pushing even more families and communities into deeper distress. With global challenges from conflicts to climate shocks to economic instability, all of us must redouble our efforts to defeat hunger and malnutrition.

Considering the magnitude and severity of the hunger crisis, the world is in serious trouble right now post the pandemic. Along with the tools and know-how, political willingness and a prolonged leadership commitment would also be required to battle the hunger crisis.