One in eight people go hungry each day, but the world produces enough food to feed the entire population and more. Why haven’t countries eradicated hunger? Can’t governments simply reorganize food distribution to feed everybody? The answer is much more complicated.
Here are six causes of hunger that are not often considered:
- Poor infrastructure and vehicles – Many developing countries lack the resources to build sufficient roads, which impedes food transportation. In some countries, motor vehicles are also in short supply, so the majority of transportation is on foot, bicycle or on the backs of livestock. With these methods of transportation, fresh food would spoil quickly. Rural areas must rely on the natural resources around them, and if those resources aren’t enough, the inhabitants may go hungry.
- Deforestation – Forests act as a safety net during times of food shortage: communities can rely on nuts, edible plants and forest animals until crops are ready for harvest, or food is imported. Deforestation robs people of these resources. In fact, one out of six people rely directly on forests for food. Furthermore, deforestation can lead to overworked soil, which in turn leads to soil erosion. If soil becomes unfit for crops, farmers and surrounding settlements become at risk for famine.
- War – In times of national and international strife, one popular tactic towards achieving victory is destroying the enemy’s food supply. Soldiers will steal animals, demolish food markets and set fields on fire to force the other side into submission. While an effective ploy, it leaves citizens with a major food crisis that may take decades to resolve. Refugees of war often face hunger complications as they struggle to scrape together a living or find a home. The world is seeing this problem right now, as hungry Syrians scatter across the globe in search of shelter and nourishment.
- Foreign trade – When a food crisis occurs at a local level, it can also have far-reaching effects. Countries that rely on the export of goods from that area suddenly can’t receive necessary supplies. “Overall, in the last two decades there has been an increase in the number of trade-dependent countries that reach sufficiency through their reliance on trade,” Paolo D’Odorico—who conducted a study on climate change and crop production—told Natural World News.
- Discrimination – In every country, groups of people are poorer than their neighbors due to religious, racial or gender-based discrimination. If groups are not well-received by their community, it becomes very difficult for them to ward off hunger. They may be banned from restaurants and food markets, unable to find employment, unlawfully incarcerated and overlooked by government welfare programs.
- Cheap food – Sometimes, the hunger problem is a matter of quality, not quantity. If people purchase and consume cheap, unhealthy food, they will reach their proper calorie intake, but still suffer severe nutrient deficiencies. This situation is known as “hidden hunger.” Unborn babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable because they need specific nutrients to develop and become resilient to disease.
– Sarah Prellwitz