FeaturedInternationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 26

Hunger in a world of abundance

Hunger is a worldwide problem. The crisis is especially acute in some African and Asian countries. In its latest world hunger report, the UN says that the number of hungry people in the world has risen to over 821 million — that’s one in nine people alive today — and is projected to increase further.

 

The 2018 Hunger Index analyzed 119 countries to measure hunger levels at global, regional, and national levels. The GHI is calculated according to four primary indicators: the proportion of the malnourished population, the frequency of child mortality, stuntedness of children and height to weight ratios of children.

 

The hunger report says that tens of millions of people are on the verge of starvation in African and Asian countries. People living in extreme hunger suffer recurring illnesses and disabilities. According to the index, the level of hunger and under-nutrition declined from 29.2 in the year 2000 to 20.9 in 2018. Fourteen countries were excluded from the 2018 GHI due to the lack of sufficient data. However, the report pointed out that the hunger situation in seven of them is extremely alarming.

 

The situation is both tragic and paradoxical. Global food production has been rising in absolute terms and will likely continue to do so but the growth is nowhere near the rate needed to feed the 10 billion people who will be inhabiting the world in 2050.

 

There are many reasons behind the hunger phenomenon. Drought, fueled by climate change, is one of the biggest factors contributing to global hunger. Another major factor is that more than half of the world’s 821 million hungry people live in conflict zones.

 

With time, the acreage under food production has been shrinking. In the last 40 years, the world has lost one third of all available farmland to erosion, population growth, pollution, etc. Experts say that the situation is going to get worse due to climate change, which is taking a serious toll on food production worldwide. The situation is deteriorating fast in developing countries.

 

According to a survey, each year 1.3 billion tonnes of food — a third of all world food production — is wasted. In developing countries, this is due to unintentional losses caused by poor logistics and infrastructure. But in the richer parts of the world, food is literally wasted. The extent of this loss is such that the UN estimates that if only a quarter of this perfectly edible food were to be saved, it would ensure that no one goes hungry anywhere in the world.

 

While most of the world’s hungry are located in Asia and Africa, obesity is also a problem. The US and China lead the way, but African countries, like Ghana (where 37pc of the adult population suffers from stunting due to childhood malnutrition), have seen obesity increase by 500pc in just a few decades.

 

The fondness for meat is a hidden reason for world hunger. Globally, animal farming takes up a staggering 83 per cent of all available agricultural land while providing only 18pc of our calories. Beef production accounts for the lion’s share of this and producing a single kilo of beef requires using anything from 5,000 to 20,000 litres of water, while also contributing vast amounts of greenhouse gases.

 

This means that reducing meat consumption can help solve the hunger problem. This calls for adoption of appropriate technologies.

 

Out of the total of 119 countries in the hunger index of 2016, Pakistan ranks 106th. Almost 43 percent of Pakistan’s population faces food insecurity. Of this number, 18 percent of people in Pakistan severely lack access to food. Pakistan has one of the most malnourished and poorest regions in the world, which is Tharparkar region in the Sindh province. Most of the region is desert land, with the majority of inhabitants depending on seasonal rainfall. In the province of Sindh, 50 percent of children below 5 years of age are stunted and 19 percent are severely malnourished. The region’s intense food insecurity stems from lack of investment in the infrastructure and population coupled with the flood that hit Sindh especially hard.

 

The number of malnourished Pakistanis has increased since the early 1990s from 24 million to 45 million in 2008. Most of the population is suspected to be extremely lacking both Vitamin A and Vitamin D consumption due to fish, egg yolk and cod liver being in short supply. Needless to say, to fight hunger in Pakistan efforts should be redoubled to increase food production, while also creating a better distribution system so that food reaches the areas of scarcity.

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