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What is Hunger?
Every day, people around the world experience those familiar sensations of emptiness and rumbling pangs in their stomach, signaling that it is time to eat. At this point, most people would get something to eat and go on with their day. Sadly, many people in the world, especially those in developing countries, do not receive this luxury. They experience chronic hunger, which is undernourishment from not ingesting enough energy to lead a normal, active life. It is difficult to empathize with what hunger feels like, to live with a body longing for nourishment, weakened by a lack of energy and unable to fulfill its basic need for food.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, an estimated one in nine people, 821 million, live with chronic hunger. It also states that the number of people living with the condition has been on the rise since 2014, with a staggering 98 percent living in developing countries.

The Consequences of Hunger

Hunger brings along with it many problems other than an aching stomach. Prolonged lack of adequate nourishment results in malnutrition, which causes the stunting of growth and development in children and wasting syndrome. Wasting syndrome is a side effect of malnutrition, in which the victim’s fat and muscle tissues break down to provide the body with nourishment. The condition results in an emaciated body and in some cases, death. In fact, malnutrition links to around 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of five, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Fortunately, some have made progress. Since 2012, the number of stunted children in the world has decreased by nine percent from 165.2 million to 150.8 million, a significant improvement.

Hunger and Poverty

Poverty is the underlying determinant in who suffers from chronic hunger. Impoverished people are unable to consistently provide substantial amounts of food for themselves or their families, as they simply cannot afford to. This inability to provide nourishment creates a vicious cycle of hunger and poverty.

Undernourished people lack the energy required to perform basic tasks and therefore are less productive. Those who were malnourished as children develop stunted physical and intellectual abilities, which results in a reduction in the level of education achieved and the individual’s income, according to UNICEF.

What Can People Do?

People can break this vicious cycle and help people suffering from chronic hunger. Organizations such as The Hunger Project, the FAO and the Gates Foundation all have initiatives aimed at helping those in need get on their feet.

The Hunger Project works to empower those suffering from hunger with the tools they need to become self-reliant.  In Mbale, Uganda, the organization partnered with the local community to build a food bank where farmers are able to safely store grain, which has greatly increased their food security.

The FAO focuses on aiding governments and other organizations in implementing initiatives that aim to decrease hunger and malnourishment. A great example of this is Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050, in which the FOA helps countries such as Kenya and Ethiopia develop livestock infrastructure that will support the countries as their populations increase over the coming years.

Bill and Melinda Gates formed the Gates Foundation in 2000 with the main focus of providing internet to those who do not have access to it. Since then, the scope of the foundation’s mission has expanded to help the impoverished through global health and development initiatives. One of the foundation’s major initiatives is Seed Systems and Variety Improvement, which aims to improve seed breeding systems in Africa and India in an effort to make agriculture in those countries more sustainable.

With projects that aim to give impoverished people access to clean water, infrastructure, sustainable farming, disaster relief and education, these organizations have made significant strides.

Individuals can help eradicate chronic hunger by donating to charitable organizations or by contacting their government representatives, encouraging them to support bills and initiatives that aim to combat global hunger. Everyone can play a role and spread the word. There is a long road ahead, but with the tools available, chronic hunger can become a thing of the past.

– Shane Thoma
Photo: Flickr

what is hunger
Hunger is an easy enough concept to imagine. Most people in the world have experienced it at some level or maybe even gone an entire day without food. But what is hunger at a global level? When hunger is discussed as an issue, there is a major gap between the conception of hunger and how those without access to food experience hunger. In the end, hunger is a systemic problem in people’s lives; those who suffer from hunger are unable to consistently achieve proper nutrition and face food insecurity.

Facts and Figures

Hunger still affects more than 800 million world citizens. This number reflects about one in every nine people worldwide. Hunger is most common in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population suffers from undernourishment. The continent of Asia contains the highest number of hungry people, while Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger – one person in every four faces undernourishment. 

Famine: Extreme Hunger

The most extreme cases of hunger on a public scale are famines, where an excess of deaths occurs as a result of starvation or hunger-induced diseases. These diseases are often preventable with a proper diet, but although there is an excess of food worldwide, the hunger originates in that food being inaccessible. Lack of access is often caused by a insufficient funding and war within an area, as seen in the South Sudan famine declared by the U.N. in February of 2017.

In daily life for undernourished people, hunger takes the form of reduced meals. In 2011, a drought in a Kenyan herding community caused sickly animals. As a result of not being able to afford enough to eat, one woman’s family was forced to cut back to just one or two meals per day as opposed to three. They also could no longer afford “luxuries” like milk. Even with access to water, there is no money to buy food if crops and animals cannot produce. 

The Costs of Hunger

New research shows that generations down the line will also be impacted by the costs of hunger. While it is well-known that young children are often the most vulnerable to hunger, Columbia University’s 2014 study of genes in roundworms after an initial starved generation found that small changes in an organism’s molecular makeup due to its health can be passed on. This means that even after hunger has been reduced, future generations may still see its effects in their own lives.

Combating Hunger

Fortunately, hunger and famine rates have decreased. The Global Goals of Sustainable Development include ending hunger and creating food security and sustainable farming as its number two goal, set to be achieved by 2030. The best strategies for ending hunger are supporting small farmers, targeting infant nutrition and utilizing biotechnology in crop creation.

Additionally, legislative action in the United States Congress is working toward alleviating hunger worldwide. The Food for Peace Modernization currently seeks to make the Food for Peace program more efficient – at no cost to taxpayers – so that it can provide food to nearly nine million more people. Understanding what hunger is can create measures like this worldwide and offer new chances for those suffering from hunger to find relief.

– Grace Gay
Photo: Flickr

What is Hunger
What is hunger? For some American high schoolers, waiting for the bell to go to lunch can be excruciating. Stomachs are growling, teenagers are getting cranky, but are they truly hungry?

To be hungry, or “malnourished,” means that, due to a lack of nutritional intake, energy is completely lacking. This often results in a severe inability to perform simple tasks or to concentrate on anything other than food.

Furthermore, the worries accompanying hunger lead to the idea of food insecurity. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization defines food insecurity as “a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life.”

In the 1970s, 30 percent of the people in our world suffered from hunger. Now we can proudly say that that percentage has been reduced to only 16 percent of the world, but this is still a staggering 925 million people.

The dangers of hunger extend past being temporarily without food. With a weakened body, malnourished people are much more prone to diseases like tuberculosis, dysentery and typhoid. The body also begins to feed on its own bone and muscle, creating a vicious cycle that typically ends with organs like the heart shutting down.

Hunger can affect mental capabilites as well. Without adequate nourishment, people are unable to concentrate and thus unable to advance educationally and socially.

Some unpleasant statistics from the WFP about hunger include the following:

  • A lack of nutrition causes 45 percent of children deaths under the age of five.
  • Two-thirds of Asia’s population is hungry.
  • In the developing world, 66 million primary school-age children go to class hungry.

According to U.N. FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf, “Defeating hunger is a realistic goal for our time, as long as lasting political, economic, financial and technical solutions are adopted.”

Organizations like Action Against Hunger, Grocers Against Hunger, UNICEF and countless more are fighting everyday to raise money and collect food for these suffering people throughout the world. These types of initiatives will not only put food on someone’s plate, but will extend their life expectancy, and improve communities. Just as Diouf claimed, global hunger can be defeated.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: WFP, United Nations