When most people think of world hunger, they picture the emaciated children shown on television commercials or news footage of refugees lining up for food rations. The media portrays hunger as a dire emergency directly resulting from natural disasters, war, or some other kind of unrest. These graphic examples of acute hunger do portray actual people and circumstances, but they fail to account for the 92 percent of the world’s hungry who suffer from chronic undernourishment rather than food emergencies. Though the number of people living with chronic hunger has decreased by 130 million people over the past two decades, one in eight people in the world still goes to bed hungry each night. Listed below are five facts about world hunger.

  1. Hunger kills more people each year than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Listed as the number one health risk on the WHO’s list of the world’s top ten threats to health, hunger causes 10 million deaths each year. That is roughly equivalent to the number of people killed in the Holocaust.
  2. If female farmers had the same access to resources as their male counterparts, the number of the world’s hungry could be reduced by 150 million people. Though women often hold responsibility for feeding their families, they face severe constraints in accessing the materials and markets needed to contribute successfully to the agriculture sector.
  3. 870 million people currently suffer from hunger. 98 percent of these people live in developing countries, with the largest proportion living in Asia and the Pacific. While the number of hungry people is declining in Asia and Latin America, it is steadily rising in sub-Saharan Africa.
  4. Another 24 million children could be hungry by the year 2050 due to climate change and irregular weather patterns. $7.1-7.3 billion is needed in order to offset the negative impact of climate change on world hunger.
  5. According to the World Food Programme, hunger is the “single biggest solvable problem” facing the world today. It costs just $0.25 per day to provide a child with the nutrients he or she needs to live, and $3.2 billion is needed to feed the 66-million school-age children who are currently hungry. While this may seem like a large amount of money, the U.S. spends more than 200 times that amount on the military alone.

– Katie Bandera

Sources: WFP, World Hunger

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The health concerns of undernutrition are evident. But a study conducted by the Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC) and the UN World Food Program (WFP), the African Union Commission, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has highlighted the economic consequences of the condition. The study incorporated data from 2009 provided by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAD), the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education in Egypt to delve into the less obvious penalties of child undernutrition.

The results of the study were published in a report titled “The Cost of Hunger in Africa: the Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Egypt”. The report concluded that Egypt has lost an estimated 20.3 billion pounds in 2009, or $3.7 billion, as a result of child undernutrition.

Stunting, a condition of slowed or stopped growth in height, and chronic malnutrition were found to be the primary drivers behind Egypt’s undernutrition-based economic losses. Stunting occurs when children are not supplied the necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals from conception through age five. The condition affects 40 percent of Egypt’s population. Stunted individuals are prone to poor adult health, impaired academic performance, and premature death.

The costs are incurred as a result of mounting healthcare expenses and burdens placed on the education and labor systems. In rural Egypt, where the majority of people work manual labor, it is estimated that the decreased productivity caused by the lowered physical ability of adults who had been stunted as children resulted in a $10.7 billion loss in 2009. Healthcare costs equaled $1.2 billion in economic productivity lost.

31% of Egypt’s population is under the age of 15, which places the necessity for adequate child nutrition at a top priority; to thrive tomorrow, Egypt needs to address these threats today by achieving food security. Without discovering ways to prevent child undernutrition, the costs Egypt incurs could increase 32% by 2025. The IDSC plans to disclose the study’s findings and recommendations to decision-makers in an effort to reverse this downward trend.

Egypt is not the first country to conduct the Cost of Hunger in Africa study. Uganda has already carried out their own study, and the 10 more countries following suit will be Botswana, CameroonBurkina Faso, Malawi, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Swaziland.

Dana Johnson

Sources: Bloomberg, WFP
Photo: Blogsome

World hunger is affecting a large number of people through malnourishment and general under-nutrition. Malnutrition is something that means a person lacks the elements, in a nutritional sense, that is necessary to be fully healthy. Often, this is either a lack of calories and protein or vitamin and mineral deficiency. In the world today, nearly one in eight people in the world have “chronic undernourishment,” which means they are perpetually in a state of hunger, which often means their children will face that same undernourishment, which creates a vicious cycle much like poverty.

852 million out of the 870 million that are hungry every day are in developing countries, such as in sub-Saharan Africa. Although malnourishment has decreased by 30 percent in Asia, as well as a decrease of 16 million in Latin America, there is still more work to be done to ensure that everyone can have access to the nutrition that they need. The people that are most at risk for hunger are children. Those children that are undernourished can be ill for 160 days or more each year, and it causes five million deaths every year. Diseases like malaria and measles are exemplified in children that are undernourished, and 57% of malaria cases have at least been partially caused by undernourishment.

The saving grace to these harsh facts about world hunger is that the world does, indeed, produce enough food to successfully feed everyone. The only issue is that the food does not actually travel to the developing countries, which means there is food in the world that the undernourished cannot access. Every person in the world could have 2,720 calories per day which is enough for proper nutrition. The issue, then, is the lack of funds to buy food, or the lack of land in order to grow food. Some of the main causes of world hunger are poverty, harmful economic systems, conflict, and climate change. Interestingly, poverty causes hunger, but hunger also leads to poverty, which is a vicious cycle; people stuck in this cycle need help in order to leave the cycle, which requires aid from other countries, in most cases.

So what are the solutions to world hunger? They are more simplistic than one might originally think. One of the main problems is the waste of edible, but “ugly,” vegetables. The food production systems of the world will throw away “unwanted” fruits and vegetables, which is incredibly wasteful. There is a campaign against food waste, partially led by Tristram Stuart, who wrote the book “Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal.” A simple solution is to stop this waste; rather than throw out “ugly” food, give them to those that are undernourished, or charities that can then pass them along to the undernourished. Another solution is to use the leftovers. Food is thrown out every day; perfectly edible food.

Individuals can even help reduce food waste by only buying what they need and saving the leftovers to eat another day. However, this needs to be done on a wider scale, such as in grocery stores or even food production systems as a whole. Finally, preservation is an important issue in regards to world hunger. Consumers and retailers can reduce food waste by stopping impulse-buying, eating food at home, saving leftovers, and reducing trips to restaurants. Of course, never going out is not the solution. Rather, merely being more careful with food is the simplest solution of all, and can be done on all levels, from individuals to large corporations.

– Corina Balsamo

Sources: Africa Review, World Hunger, Rural Spin
Photo: Morgue File

Why Food is a Global Health Issue
Rebecca D. Onie, the founder of Health Leads, gave an interesting TED Talk on the state of the healthcare system in the United States. While her approach was aimed at reforming the U.S. healthcare system, her message is valuable for the international and global health care mentality as well.

Onie spoke about her experience working as a legal assistant for low-income Boston families and how her time there motivated her to found Health Leads. She discovered that, on the issue of hunger and malnutrition, doctors are told to follow a “don’t ask don’t tell policy.”

Onie tells the story of Dr. Jack Geiger who operated a community health center in Mississippi. Dr. Geiger began writing his malnourished patients prescriptions for food, attacking the root of many of their health problems. Onie suggests that if we want people to really get better, we need to first treat the underlying causes of individuals suffering health, which in many cases is hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.

Health Leads understands the impact malnutrition and poverty can have on a child. Poverty dramatically increases a child’s likelihood of hospitalization. Children whose families cannot afford to pay their utility bills are also more likely to be hospitalized.

Health Leads has experienced a great deal of success in the United States. Since 2010 Health Leads has helped over 23,000 people. The organization has provided access to food, utilities, legal assistance, employment, education, and benefits. Health Leads is supplying exactly the kind of resources necessary to lift people out of poverty and empower them to stand on their own two feet.

The question now becomes, what is stopping the United States from proposing the same kind of change in the developing world as well? What would happen if we were to provide stable nutrition and housing programs for children in developing countries? Would worldwide medical reform where doctors prescribed food alongside medication be more effective than medication alone? Rebecca D. Onie’s work provides an interesting perspective and idea to consider.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: TED Talk, Health Leads
Photo: npr

Pledge to End Malnutrition During G8 Summit

By the time the G8 Summit took place on 17th-18th June, several nations were already taking action to combat child malnutrition. On June 8th, at nutrition for growth summit co-hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron, the vice-president of Brazil, Michel Temer, and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, commitments of up to $4.15 billion were pledged by developed nations. These pledges will double the funding currently given to global nutrition.

Additionally, a global ‘nutrition for growth’ compact was signed by representatives of 24 governments and 28 businesses, as well as various scientific organizations. The focus of this compact is to provide benefits to at least 500 million women and children through effective nutrition interventions, reduce the incidences of stunted growth due to malnutrition, and save at least 1.7 million lives by the treatment of severe malnutrition.

The benefits of this could be far-reaching. Reports point to malnutrition as the underlying cause in the death of 3.1 million children annually, as well as adversely affecting the growth and development of another 165 million. As a result of this, it is estimated that Africa and Asia lose 11% of GDP every year due to issues surrounding malnutrition.

Commitments, though, are equally important from the developing countries in terms of spending on nutrition and prioritizing internal poverty and hunger. And in some instances, these pledges were forthcoming. The president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, pledged Malawi would treble spending on nutrition (from 1% to 3.3%) by 2020. Similarly, Burkina Faso committed to reducing chronic malnutrition from affecting 32.9% of the population to 25% by 2020.

It will take this tandem effort to ensure that the pledges made are actually brought to fruition. Both the developed and the developing nations must work together to ensure that the aims of the summit are achieved and that no more innocent lives are wasted.

– David Wilson

Source: The Guardian

The Global Nutrition for Growth Compact has brought politicians, business people, and philanthropists together in an effort to fight global malnutrition. The Compact, signed in London on June 8th, dedicates $4.15 billion over the next seven years to the cause of ending under-nutrition.

The Global Nutrition for Growth Compact was established with the understanding that malnutrition needs to be combated just as much as malnourishment. Malnutrition occurs when a person has an adequate amount of calories, but consumes a diet that is lacking in nutrients that are essential for growth and development. On the other hand, malnourishment is a condition resulting from a lack of calories in a diet. While malnourishment can directly lead to death through starvation, malnutrition more than doubles a child’s likelihood of dying due to weakened bodily functions. Poor nutrition is believed to be the primary cause in 45% of child deaths overall.

Fortunately, the number of children in the world who are stunted (or never reach their potential height) as a result of malnutrition dropped from 253 million to 167 million in the two decades between 1990 and 2010. The improvement is credited to a greater understanding of nutritional regimens that prevent malnutrition. Programs that combat malnutrition focus on remedies that emphasize breastfeeding and provide vitamins and nutrients to pregnant women and developing children. Adequate nutrition is critical for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as it provides the components needed for infant development and healthy weight gain. Likewise, it is essential that developing children receive vitamins and nutrients for healthy mental and physical growth.

Researchers believe that a million lives could be saved each year through the implementation of a malnutrition reduction program. In addition to saving lives, the program will also provide children with the nutrients they need for full brain development, a component which helps children be successful in school.

– Jordan Kline

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Action Against Hunger

Fragile But Not Helpless
Rates of acute and chronic malnutrition are estimated to be 50 percent higher in countries marred by conflict than in more stable places, according to a new report by World Vision U.K. entitled “Fragile But Not Helpless.”

Because war-torn and violent countries often allocate all efforts toward the alleviation of conflict, the issue of malnutrition is often sidelined. The progress in these countries is in danger of reversing if nothing is done. While the pursuit of peace in conflict-torn countries is extremely important, the alleviation of life-threatening issues such as malnutrition should not be neglected, according to David Thomson of World Vision UK.

More children worldwide die from malnutrition than from conflict, even in violent countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Though significant progress has been made in the alleviation of malnutrition, 2.3 million children still die from the condition every year. And yet, war-torn countries divert an average of 60% of their budget to the military and only a fraction of that toward malnutrition.

World Vision UK suggests that “donors simply need to re-prioritize if we’re to ensure the benefits of this progress reach a generation of children in the world’s most fragile states.”

The organization is calling on donor states to encourage conflict-affected states to join their “Scaling Up Nutrition” movement. This movement is a global collective effort involving governments, the United Nations, private donors, civil society, businesses and researchers to improve nutrition.

Their approaches include making nutritious food more accessible, improving access to clean water and improving access to adequate healthcare services. Recently, they have expanded their initiatives to focusing on nutritional development in what they call FCAS, or fragile and conflict-affected states.

With their new report, they aim to encourage G8 leaders to provide funding and technical support to FCAS that have demonstrated a concerted effort to tackle malnutrition. With consistent funding and political attention, Thomson is hopeful that malnutrition can be addressed and alleviated in fragile states.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: World Vision UK, TRUST
Photo: The Guardian

Understanding Hidden Hunger
Sight and Life, a prominent group working to fight micronutrient deficiencies prevalent among the world’s poor, has recently released its Hidden Hunger Index. Hidden hunger is defined as a chronic deficiency of necessary micronutrients. Rather than a lack of food or calories, this type of hunger results from a diet low in specific nutrients. This condition affects approximately 1 in 3 people in the world today and accounts for about 7% of diseases around the world. Although the signs are not visible, hidden hunger has long-term consequences for overall health, productivity, and mental development. The most common deficiencies are in vitamin A, iodine, folate, and B vitamins. Women of reproductive age and young children are most severely affected by this condition.

In addition to its negative and often permanent health effects, hidden hunger has numerous economic consequences. It aggravates global poverty in multiple ways and minimizes countries’ growth in economic productivity. It also increases child and maternal mortality, causes birth defects, diseases, and disabilities. Unfortunately, it also restrains the empowerment of women by adversely affecting their health.

The Hidden Hunger Index concluded that hidden hunger in pre-school age children was alarmingly high in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Afghanistan. High Hidden Hunger Index was found to correlate with low Human Development Index, a measure based on three basic qualities of human well-being: a long and healthy life, education, and standard of living. While many micronutrient deficiencies were found to occur in groups, iodine deficiencies were often found independently. This is probably due to differing country laws on salt iodization. Iodine deficiency accounts for approximately 18 million children born mentally impaired each year.

Hidden hunger and its related health issues are significant obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) laid out by the United Nations. The Hidden Hunger Index shines a light on micronutrient deficiencies and acts as a tool for activism. While there is information concerning hunger issues with root causes in a lack of food and calories, and about single micronutrient deficiencies, information about multiple micronutrient deficiencies is sorely lacking. Sight and Life developed the Hidden Hunger Index in the hopes that it will “serve as a tool to stimulate global efforts towards scaling up nutrition interventions”.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: Micronutrient Initiative, Hidden Hunger Index
Photo: The Guardian

Rethinking Hunger in Africa
Philanthropists may be tempted to rejoice that recent trends have shown that the total number of people who face chronic hunger has dropped. New surveys, however, caution those working to eradicate global poverty.

The Afrobarometer is an independent, nonpartisan research project that measures the social, political and economic environment in Africa through a series of regularly-repeated surveys. By consistently asking the same, standard set of questions in more than a dozen African countries each year, the Afrobarometer can track trends in public attitudes that can be shared with various public actors in order to create better dialogue between the public and the government.

When asked in a recent Afrobarometer survey how many times in the past year they had gone without food, 16% of survey participants responded either “always” or “many times.” Even as global instances of chronic hunger drop as a whole, Africa remains the exception to the trend. The U.N. suggests that 239 million African citizens, or nearly 23% of the total African population, meet the U.N.’s criteria for being chronically undernourished.

The situation is even more alarming when one considers that chronic hunger mainly affects African children, who may experience stunting (low height), wasting (low weight) or micronutrient deficiency if exposed to chronic hunger conditions between the ages of 2 and 3. Chronic hunger not only puts children at risk for future health complications but can also impair future economic concerns as well. Studies have also shown that undernourished children eventually earn an average of 20% less than their healthy peers.

The current hunger problems in African can be traced back to a reliance on maize. Though maize is highly caloric, it offers mediocre nutritional qualities and thus can exacerbate malnutrition even as it satisfies daily caloric needs. Both Zambians and Malawians report receiving more than 50% of their calories from maize.

Over-reliance on maize is not just stunting the growth of African children, but also the potential of the African economy and agricultural development. By only producing maize, African farmers limit their access to global markets, thus making them too reliant on foreign aid and capital.

Instead of maize, the U.N. and its associated nutritionists suggest a food fortification program that supplies rural grain mills with a range of foods that include added iodine, zinc and vitamin A to provide an extra nutritional boost. Additionally, initiatives like ReSCOPE are using schools and colleges in Africa to teach a technique called permaculture, which uses a version of organic farming to keep nutrients in the soil to promote sustainable, year-round crops that will help local farming cultures flourish like never before.

These initiatives follow the concept of the “teach a man to fish” proverb. By promoting a culture of food self-sufficiency that allows African farmers to create both the quantity and quality of the food needed to meet their local nutritional needs, global aid communities and governments may be giving Africa the long-overdue ability to stand on its own two feet.

– Alexandria Bruschi

Source:,Think Africa Press
Photo: WPHR

Female farmers working small plots of land to grow food may be a solution to ending world hunger according to international aid group CARE.  As leaders prepare talks for the Hunger Summit in London, advocates are reminding leaders to look to female farmers as a solution and answer to food insecurity. Around the world, 60 to 80 percent of food production in developing countries is grown by women. In stark contrast, only about 5 percent of training and resources ever get to these female farmers.

Julia Netwon-Howes, CARE Australia CEO, believes small-scale farmers are key in the fight against world hunger. Families around the world are being fed and sustained by women farming on small plots of land and their ability to increase the size and quality of their crops can lead to huge gains in fighting hunger. Studies show the world produces enough food for everyone, but the poor distribution and scarcity in some regions leads to millions still going hungry each day. To address the 1 in 8 still going to bed hungry, not only does production need to be addressed, but distribution must also be studied.

While action has been taken, small-scale farmers have been left out of the mainstream. With close to half of all agriculture being produced on small-scale farms, they must be taken into consideration as future plans are drawn to fight hunger. Assistance and government help must expand their focus to include both large and small-scale farms. This includes helping female farmers with better farming techniques, diversification of crops, and nutrition education. Farmers must be educated on the value of a variety of vegetables and food beyond the staple crops of sweet potato or maize grown every day. As they are educated and helped, hunger and malnutrition will continue to decline.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: ABC Radio Australia