Hunger in Lithuania
Many people envision Lithuania as a country caught in the past, still dotted with old fashioned villages, devoid of advanced technology and full of poor and starving people leftover from multiple occupations during the World Wars and the Cold War. Yet these stereotypes and initial assumptions are sorely misleading. As a renewed independent nation fewer than 30 years old, Lithuania has quickly established a growing economy. Though hunger is a minimal problem compared to many other issues in Lithuania, it is still part of a larger cycle of poverty, so it is important to continue decreasing hunger in Lithuania and other developing countries.

Though about 22% of Lithuania’s population lives below the poverty line, very few live in extreme poverty. Since poverty is relatively low, most people can obtain the necessary resources to survive. Hunger in Lithuania greatly decreased since independence. The country’s Global Hunger Index score dropped from 9.4 in 1995 to below 5 in 2015. This Index is designed to measure global hunger and the changes in hunger rates from year to year in developing countries. In 2015, Lithuania was one of only 13 developing countries to have a score of less than 5.

Other statistics demonstrate the success of decreasing hunger in Lithuania as well. Between 1994 and 1996, 4.6% of the population was undernourished compared to only 1.4% between 2014 and 2016. Child wasting (children suffering from low weight for their height) and child stunting (children at a low height for their age) are both indications of chronic malnutrition, and they each decreased by more than half from 1995 to 2015.

These improvements are important to celebrate, but it is also important to address those who are part of the small percentage still affected by malnutrition and hunger in Lithuania. For those who are hungry, the good news is that the depth of hunger in Lithuania is low, sitting at an average of 120 calories. This means that those who are hungry and undernourished have 120 fewer calories per day than their body needs to maintain body weight and properly perform activities.

The depth of hunger is similar in many developed countries, such as South Korea and Finland, both at 130, or Germany at 110. The comparable depths of hunger indicate that the intensity of food deprivation is small and on a similar level as countries with many more resources. However, the knowledge that hunger in Lithuania is similar to hunger in Germany is little comfort to those who go about their days dealing with rumbling bellies and the unpleasant effects of too little food.

In Lithuania, and other countries as well, one of the key methods to reduce the number of hungry people is to deal with poverty as a whole. Improving the economy, creating more job opportunities, and increasing job pay and equality are all important steps to continue to fight hunger in Lithuania. The unemployment rate is relatively low at 7.9%, comparable to Canada’s rate of 7.1%, but continuing to expand the economy and create new jobs can help decrease Lithuania’s poverty, and in doing so, further shrink hunger rates.

Lithuania is already ranked number 15  on the Forbes list of best countries for business, and many prospective businesses set their sights on Lithuania due to the country’s existing business reputation, its strategic location and the high rates of citizens’ talent and education. This means that the economy will likely grow and increase job opportunities, without a drastic change. The growing economy will also allow the minimum wage to increase, and providing paid leave and pay equity will also help lessen poverty. These are only a few ways that Lithuania can reduce poverty, and less poverty will mean that even fewer people in Lithuania will go hungry.

Rachael Lind

Photo: Flickr