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 starvation and malnutrition are discussed, there is a major gap between the conception of hunger and how those without access to food experience it. In the end, hunger is a systemic problem in people’s lives; those who suffer from it 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. Starvation and malnutrition are 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 malnutrition – 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, starvation and malnutrition originate 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 starvation. While it is well-known that young children are often the most vulnerable to malnutrition, 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.
Fortunately, famine and malnutrition rates have decreased. The Global Goals of Sustainable Development include ending starvation 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 starvation 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