Hunger is a term that has been defined differently by different people due to its physiological as well as its socio economic aspects. In most cases, the term hunger has been defined in relation to food insecurity. However, according to Holben (n. d. pp. 1), hunger is usually defined as a condition that is painful or uneasy emanating from lack of food.
In the same studies, hunger has yet been defined as persistent and involuntary inability to access food. Therefore, world hunger refers to a condition characterized by want and scarce food in the whole world. Technically, hunger refers to malnutrition a condition that is marked by lack of some, or all the nutrients that are necessary to maintain health of an individual.
There are two types of malnutrition which include micronutrient deficiency and protein energy malnutrition. It is important to note that world hunger generally refers to protein energy malnutrition which is caused by inadequacy of proteins and energy giving food. According to World Hunger education Service (2010 Para. 4), the recent statistics by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) records that there is a total of about nine hundred and twenty five million people in the whole world who are described as hungry.
It is a serious condition since statistics indicate that the number has been on the increase since the mid twentieth center. With that background in mind, this paper shall focus on the problem of world hunger, history, statistics, impacts as well as solutions to the problem.
The problem of hunger has been persistent since early centuries given that people residing in Europe continent used to suffer from serious shortages of food. The problem intensified in the twentieth century due to increase of wars, plagues and other natural disasters like floods, famines and earth quakes. Consequently, a lot of people succumbed to malnutrition and death.
However, during the mid twentieth century and after the Second World War, food production increased by 69% and therefore, there was enough food to feed the population by (National Research Council (U.S.) Committee on Public Engineering Policy, 1975 pp. vii).
The situation of food adequacy which continued from the year 1954-1972 was as a result of various factors which were inclusive but not limited to better methods of farming, land reclamation, use of fertilizers, use of irrigation, as well as use of machines and other forms of skilled labor.
In 1970s, people thought that they could keep the problem of hunger under control by conserving environment, controlling population growth and technological development. Nevertheless, even with such optimism, studies of National Research Council (U.S.).
Committee on Public Engineering Policy (1975 pp. vii), record that by 1974, the condition had already grown out of hand because there was not only a high population growth rate, but energy was also extremely expensive. To make the matter worse, the same study records that a quarter of the total population in the world were already experiencing hunger.
Therefore, due to hunger, agencies which were dealing with the problem started to request for the intervention of the humanitarian relief as well as trying to solve the problem thorough the use of the green revolution. The problem of hunger contributed greatly to the technological development since by all costs, people had to survive. However, although agriculture continued to expand, the population continued to increase and that is why the problem of hunger has persisted throughout the twentieth century to the twenty first century.
As highlighted in the introductory part, nine million people in the world are malnourished but further studies indicate that the exact number is not known. It is important to note that though the problem of hunger is virtually everywhere in the world, most of the hunger stricken people are found in the developing countries.
Despite the fact that the number has been on the increase since 1995, a decrease was observed in last year. The figures below clearly explain the statistical trend of world hunger from 1968 to 2009 (World Hunger Education Service, 2010 Para. 4).
Figure 1. The Number of Hunger Stricken People from 1969-2010
Source (World Hunger Education Service, 2010)
Figure 2: Distribution of Hungry People in the Whole World by Regions
Source: (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2010 pp. 2)
The above figure clearly illustrates that the problem of hunger is most common in the developing countries and less common in the developed countries. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2010 pp. 2), 19 million are found in developed countries, thirty seven million in North East and North Africa, fifty three in Latin and Caribbean America, two hundred and thirty nine million in Sub Saharan Africa and five hundred and seventy eight in Asia and Pacific Region.
However, it is important to mention that the Food and Agriculture Organization arrives at the above figures by considering the total income of people and the income distribution. Therefore, the figures given are just estimates and that is the main reason why it has become increasingly difficult to get the actual number of hungry people in the whole world.
There are many causes of world hunger but poverty is the main and the same is caused by lack of enough resources as well as unequal distribution of recourses among the populations especially in the developing countries.
According to World Hunger Education Service (2010 Para 10. ), World Bank estimates that there are a bout one million, three hundred and forty five million people who are poor in the whole world since their daily expenditure is 1.25 dollars or even less. Similarly, Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that about one billion people in the whole world are under nourished.
As expected, the problem of poverty affects mostly the developing countries although there have been a lot of campaigns which have been launched with an aim of poverty reduction. Consequently in some parts Asia and China, the campaigns have been successful because the number has reduced by 19% (World Hunger Education Service, 2010 para. 12). Conversely, in some parts like the sub-Saharan Africa, the number of poor people has gone up.
Since the study has indicated that poverty is the main cause of hunger, it is important to look at the underlying cause of poverty. According to World Hunger Education Service (2010), the current economic as well as political systems in the world contribute greatly to the problem of hunger and poverty.
The main reason is due to the fact that more often than not, resources are controlled by the economic and political institutions which are controlled by the minority. Therefore, policies which emanate from poor economic systems are contributory factor to poverty and hunger.
Conflict and war is an important cause of not only poverty but also hunger. The main reason is due to the fact that conflicts lead to displacement of people and destruction of property and other resources that can be helpful in alleviating hunger. Towards the end of 2005, the number of refugees was lower compared to the current number influenced by violence and conflicts which have been taking place in Iraq as well as in Somali.
The same study clearly indicates that towards the end of the year 2008, UNHCR had recorded more than ten million refugees. A year after, internally displaced persons in the whole world had reached a total of twenty six million (World Hunger Education Service 2010 par 13). However, although it is difficult to provide the total number of internally displaced people due to conflicts, the truth is, refugees mostly suffer from poverty which exposes them to extreme hunger.
Over the last century, climate has been changing in most parts of the world, a condition which has been caused by global warming. It is a real phenomena and the effects of the same are observed in most parts of the world which are inclusive but not limited to draughts, floods, changing weather and climatic patterns as well as hurricanes (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Economic and Social Dept, 2005).
Such effects of globalization contribute greatly to hunger because they destroy the already cultivated food leading to food shortages.
Changing weather and climate patterns require a change to certain crops which is not only expensive but it also takes long to be implemented. In addition, some plants and animals have become extinct and the same contributes greatly to food shortages and hunger in general. Nonetheless, the most serious consequences of global warming are floods draughts and famines since they lead to poverty which ends up increasing people’s susceptibility to hunger. ( Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2010)
High food prices in both domestic and international markets are also a contributory factor to world hunger. Although the level of poverty is increasing because the level of income has reduced, the price of various food commodities has also gone up and therefore, it has become increasingly difficult for people to afford adequate food for their needs.
According to the studies of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2008 pp. 24), between the year 2002 to 2007, prices of cereals such as wheat maize as well as rice increased by about fifty percent in the world market.
Nonetheless, although the world market food prices were increasing, the rate was different with domestic prices, a condition caused by the depreciating value of the US dollar while compared to other currencies in the world. However, in the year 2007 and 2008, domestic food prices in most countries also ended up increasing.
High prices in the domestic market are caused by high prices for agricultural inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. As highlighted earlier, the need for use of advanced agricultural inputs results from the effects of global warming which is also a chief cause of world hunger and food insecurity.
There are many impacts of world hunger because food is a basic need for everyone in the society. Although impacts of hunger affect people across all the age brackets, young children are usually the worst victims. In science, the condition caused by hunger and starvation is known as under nutrition. It increases the disease burden such that in one year; under nourished children suffer from illnesses for at least five months as the condition lowers their immunity.
In most cases, undernourishment is the underlying cause of various diseases that affect children like malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. Studies of World Hunger Education Service (2010 par. 10) indicate that malnutrition is the underlying cause of more than half of all the cases of malaria diarrhea and pneumonia in young children. In measles, the same studies indicate that forty five percent of all the cases result from malnutrition.
As the problem of hunger, malnutrition is unequally distributed in the world because about thirty two percent of the stunted children live in the developing countries. Seventy percent of the total number of the malnourished children is found in Asia while Africa hosts 26% and the remaining four percent are from Caribbean and Latin America (World Hunger Education Service, 2010 par 11).
The study points out that the problem starts even before birth because in most cases, pregnant mothers are also usually undernourished. Due to this problem, in every six infants, one is usually undernourished. Apart from death, under nourishment resulting from hunger also causes blindness, difficulties in learning, stunted growth, retardation and poor health, to name just a few.
Apart from disease, poverty is also a resultant factor of hunger. In reference to the definition of hunger as an uncomfortable condition resulting from lack of food, hungry people are usually incapacitated. Since food is an important source of energy, people suffering from hunger are usually not in a position to take part in useful economic activities and a result, they are usually poor.
In addition, hunger is one of the reasons that cause people to migrate from one place to another there by causing economic constraints to the host countries. Conflicts also emanate from the same as people compete for scarce resources. A lot of humanitarian agencies use most of their funds in proving food to the people suffering from hunger either in refugee camps or in other places.
As a result, governments spend a lot of money in providing humanitarian support while the same amount of money could have been used in development projects. Impacts of hunger are mostly felt in the developing countries, Asia and Sub Saharan Africa because in most cases, the problem of hunger in such regions is usually an international problem because regional governments cannot be able to deal with it single handedly ( World Vision, 2010).
Hunger being a serious problem requires no emphasis and therefore, there are some responses which are meant to mitigate the problem. Various policies have therefore been established in all related areas. For example, there are various policies that that have been established to regulate high food prices. Such measures are inclusive but not limited to tax on imports, restricting export to maintain adequate food in the country, measures to control prices of food as well as to enhance food affordability, and stabilizing prices.
Improving and increasing agricultural produce is an important measure that has been taking place especially in the developing countries meant to increase supply and eventually curb the problem of hunger. At this point, is important to note that the number of response which have be taken to reduce or eliminate the problem of hunger vary from one region to another.
In addition, every region implements the policies that can be useful in that particular region. According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2010 pp.32 ), a survey conducted in the year 2007 and 2008 indicated that about 50% of all the countries reduced the tax of imports on cereals and more than fifty percent adopted measures like consumer subsidies with an aim of lowering domestic food prices.
Twenty five percent of the countries imposed restrictions on exports to minimize the outflow of food and the remaining 16% had done nothing to solve the problem of high domestic food prices. It is quite unfortunate that the regions that are mostly affected by hunger like Sub Saharan Africa; Caribbean as well Latin America has established the lowest number of policies.
Although such policies are of great help locally, they have negative impacts in the international markets. For example, due to restriction on exports, the supply of food at the international markets is usually low and as a result, the prices end up increasing. Apart from that, subsidies on imports increase government expenditure thereby straining the budget.
Therefore, it is clear that some measures of price do not control neither they end up mitigating the problem since they affect other people like farmers and traders. The main cause of the problem is due to the fact that most governments are unable to protect their economy from external influences.
While looking for the solutions to the problem, it is important to note that the demand of food will continue to increase due to various factors like urban growth and development as well as the high level of income. In that case, there is a great need for increasing food production.
In addition, the intervention should aim at not only solving the current problem but also solving any shortage that may emerge in future. Therefore, all regions and especially the sub-Saharan Africa ought to focus on increasing agricultural production. Moreover, it is necessary to come up with appropriate policies to ensure that the increase in food production will solve the problem of food insecurity (National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Public Engineering Policy, 1975).
One of the problems that have been causing hunger especially in developing countries is inaccessibility to adequate food. As a result, the concerned stakeholders should look for ways and means of increasing food accessibility. For instance; it would be more helpful if the production of small scale farmers could increase because the problem cannot only help in lowering food prices in the global market but also in alleviating poverty and hunger in the rural areas.
Although incentives and agricultural inputs are important in increasing agricultural production in the rural areas, some other measures can still be used in the same areas. For instance, in a region like Africa, more areas can be irrigated and by so doing, agricultural production can increase as well ( Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2010).
World hunger is a real and a serious problem not only due to its grave impacts but also due to the complexity of the whole issue. A lot of people in the whole world are exposed to hunger. A critical analysis of the problem illustrates that it not only results from low food production but it is also affected by other factors such as inaccessibility of food, high food prices and some policies established by the government.
For example, the research has indicated that some polices that control the prices of food in local markets end up increasing food prices in the global market. In the view of the fact that hunger is the underlying cause of poverty, disease and eventually death, it is important for the concerned stake holders to address the issue accordingly.
As the studies of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (2008, p. 2) indicate, the over nine million hunger stricken people can be saved only if the stake holders that are inclusive of the government, United Nations, civil societies, donors and humanitarian agencies, general public and the private sector can join hands in combating the problem.
In order to come up with lasting solutions, their efforts should be aimed at improving the agricultural sector and establishing safety nets to protect the vulnerable population. Finally, in every challenge, there is an opportunity and in that case, the high prices of food can be used as an opportunity by small scale producers to increase their produce and get more returns and thereby reduce problems like poverty which contribute to hunger. Therefore, even though the problem is complicated, viable solutions still exist.
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