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Hunger in HungaryHungary is a landlocked country located in central Europe with a population of nearly 10 million. Of these 10 million people, almost 14.6% of Hungarians live below the poverty line, meaning hunger in Hungary remains a critical issue. Moreover, reportedly 44% of Hungarians do not have access to essential resources.

Malnourishment in Children

As estimated, some 3.3 million people suffer from food insecurity in the country. Many of those impacted are children. According to an OECD study conducted between 2007 and 2012, the number of Hungarian children living in poverty has risen from 7% to 17%.  According to the Save the Children Foundation, 6.1 out of every 1000 children die from food-related issues before their fifth birthday. While starvation kills some, others die from a lack of a nutritious diet. Those who are not starving do not receive the bare minimum of healthy nutrients to live a sustainable life.  This combination of malnourishment and a lack of a nutritious diet leads to more vulnerability to infection and disease.

Infants are often deprived of nutrients while in their mother’s womb. The severity of hunger in Hungary has led to starvation in pregnant women. According to IndexMundi’s data, as of 2017, there have been 12 deaths per 100,000 live births recorded.  The country has an under-five mortality rate at five deaths per 1,000 births and an infant mortality rate of 6 deaths per 1,000 births. The limited access to food often results in premature births and high maternal mortality rates.

Hungarian Climate and Resources

The majority of Hungarian land lies in the Great Hungarian Plain. The arid climate, lack of rainfall and prevalent droughts limit the ground for farming and sometimes lead to famines. The primary harvest for Hungary is corn, wheat, sugar beets, potatoes and rye.  The country exports most of the crops produced instead of using them to feed Hungarians in need. Some Hungarian agricultural exports have reached numbers as high as $716 million U.S. dollars, as more than 25% of the country’s crop is exported to other countries.

Alleviating Hunger in Hungary

To reduce the high numbers of hungry children, the Hungarian government provides meals in nurseries and schools for those in need. Approximately 370,000 children receive government-provided meals.  Food programs, such as the Food Aid Program, distributes nearly 50 million pounds of food. The EU Food Assistance Program also supplies food to almost 1.2 million Hungarians, which accounts for roughly 11% of the total population.

While the high rate of poverty and hunger faced in the country remains high, there is still hope to alleviate hunger in Hungary. The state is working continuously to solve the hunger problems faced. Through community programs and governmental support, slow continuous progress is being made, proving that alleviating hunger in Hungary is achievable.

– Jacey Reece

Photo: Flickr

Food Aid Reform
In February 2015, the Food for Peace Reform Act was reintroduced and pitched as something that could “free up as much as $440 million annually” by making the delivery of aid to foreign nations much more efficient. While this is impressive and exciting news, it prompted many to ask the question: “What is food aid reform?”

To answer this question, it’s important to first understand the way U.S. food aid functions. Following World War II, the U.S. launched a food aid program intended to combat world hunger by taking any surplus in U.S. grain and shipping it overseas.

This program had very good intentions, and it has made an incredible impact for many people living in areas rife with humanitarian or natural crises. However, many agree that it is now time for this program to be modernized.

One of the main problems with the current food aid program is that the current law requires the government to purchase its donated food from American producers and ship food aid out on American ships. This law prevents food aid programs from cutting out the middlemen and simply purchasing food from the regions that it would be delivered to.

In the vast majority of cases, that means that the country receiving aid is given less food. Not only is this hitch in the food aid program bad for the people receiving aid, but it also adds an unnecessary extra cost to the program. A study done in 2009 by the Government Accountability Office discovered that it costs 34 percent less to buy food in Sub-Saharan Africa than to have it shipped there.

Additionally, an estimate given by the U.S. Agency for International Development states that purchasing food within the region could provide starving populations with food 11 to 14 weeks sooner than they would otherwise receive it.

So, what is food aid reform? Food aid reform is an initiative to fix some of the most pertinent problems regarding how U.S. foreign aid functions. By changing some of the laws that hinder food aid reform, this program can become timelier, more efficient and more beneficial to those who depend on it.

Jordan Little

Photo: Flickr

food aid program
In terms of volume, the United States is the largest international humanitarian donor. The U.S. contributed approximately $8 billion in emergency aid in the last five years. Yet, how efficiently is this funding being allocated, and are taxpayers getting their money’s worth?

According to Jared Pincin and Brian Brenberg, both professors at The King’s College, U.S. foreign aid works to benefit special interests and its full extent does not reach those who need it the most.

In their recent USA Today article, Pincin and Brenberg explain the relation between food aid and politically connected businesses. In their words, the reason for this is that food aid is “tied, which means that it must be sourced from U.S. producers and transported on U.S. ships.”

“Even though reforming such tied aid programs would help the needy and save money for U.S. taxpayers, Congress is unlikely to change the system. Foreign aid is a lucrative business for interest groups, which aggressively lobby political leaders for pieces of the foreign aid pie, i.e. contracts. Elected officials often reward these powerful industries or companies in exchange for help with re-election, sometimes even lobbying on their behalf.”

While this sounds like the works of shady operation, in Washington D.C. this practice is perfectly legal. Allocating funds in a way that benefits special interests ensures that the fundraising machine continues to operate without problems.

Through the food aid program, the U.S. buys produce and other farm commodities from U.S. farms. Then all this foodstuff is shipped to villages in poor countries in U.S. ships. While this practice greatly benefits U.S. corporations, indeed it has a negative impact on local farmers across the globe.

Since foodstuff can be obtained for free from an outside source, the market and therefore the incentive for local farmers to produce is nullified. This means that not only farmers in developing countries are loosing demand for their product, but they are not able to hire locals and expand their business, which curtails economic growth.

As Pincin and Brenberg conclude, foreign aid’s primary goal is to help those in need and not to pad the pockets of special interests. This is not to say that benefiting U.S. farmers and corporations is an entirely bad thing. But when foreign assistance funding is allocated based on who provides better fundraising, than the real needs of each program, it is not only a waste of taxpayer’s money, but it is a waste of world resources.

Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: Capitol Hill Daily, USA Today
Photo: Food for the Hungry