Hunger and Starvation Affecting Half the Human Race
Hunger and starvation across the world have ravaged mankind since the beginning. Half of the human population still suffers from it. Over 820 million people are in the grasp of this debilitating crisis, with millions more under its threat owing to the current coronavirus pandemic.
The perilous cycle of hunger passes from one generation to the next. Families who struggle with chronic hunger and malnutrition consistently go without the nutrients their minds and bodies need, which then prevents them from being able to perform to their best abilities.
While hunger persists in many parts of the world, two continents alone, Africa and Asia house more hungry and malnourished people than anywhere else in the world countries that starve to death each year. Although Africa is portrayed through various mediums as the epicenter, Asia has always had more hungry people. More malnourished children could be due to the fact that Asia has such a huge population.
Long History of Hunger
Africa’s major food crises show conditions still faced by many African today – poverty, drought, conflict, and environmental degradation owing to overgrazing, deforestation, and other types of environmental damages.
A drought from 1968 to 1980 in the Sahel region led to 1 million deaths in Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso. In the following two years, drought and conflict led to widespread hunger in Uganda.
The famine in Ethiopia in 1984-85 led to about 1 million deaths and massive displacement activities owing to drought in the northern highlands and problems in delivering help. In 1991-92, drought and civil war caused the Somalia famine.
From 1998 to 2004, during the Second Congo War, over 3 million people died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, mostly from starvation and disease.
The Horn of Africa hunger crisis of 2011-12 was responsible for 280,000 deaths in East Africa. 25 million people, including 15 million children, needed humanitarian assistance in East Africa in 2017.
In 218, Africa was home to more than half of the global total of acutely food-insecure people, estimated at 65 million people. East Africa had the highest number at 28.6 million, followed by Southern Africa at 23.3 million, and West Africa at 11.2 million.
In 2019, the food security deteriorated and is expected to worsen in 2020.
Hunger Woes of Africa
Even as Africa has left many shackles behind on its journey to development, hunger is a chain that still restraints many nations on the continent. In Africa, hunger is escalating at a worrisome pace.
Economic woes, drought, and extreme weather are reversing years of progress so that 237 million sub-Saharan Africans are chronically underfed, more than in any other region. About 20 percent of the whole of Africa, which is 257 million people, is experiencing hunger.
Consecutive bouts of bad crop seasons and poor harvests in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Angola are taking a toll on agriculture production, and food prices are rising as a result.
In the last three growing seasons, parts of Southern Africa experienced their lowest rainfall since 1981. Various other areas also suffered widespread destruction from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth in March and April 2019, near the time for harvesting.
As a result of these calamities, 41 million people in Southern Africa are facing food insecurity and 9 million people in the region require instant food assistance.
Central Africa has the highest rates of child hunger across the continent, with 48.5 percent of children in the region not having enough food. It’s 32.4 percent in East Africa; 30.9 percent in Southern Africa; 29.5 percent in West Africa; and 12.4 percent in North Africa.
According to a study by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), almost 60 million children in Africa do not have enough food while across the continent, hunger contributes to 45 percent of childhood deaths.
Moreover, nine out of 10 children are not meeting the criterion for a minimum acceptable diet as outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The criterion measures the quality, quantity, and how often food is taken, including exclusive breastfeeding, when solid food can be introduced to a diet, and what nutrients should be found in every meal for newborns to children up to 23 months old.
A child dies every three seconds globally due to food deprivation – 10,000 children every day – but although figures show an improvement in child hunger at a global level, it is getting worse in some parts of Africa.
Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem. It is the offspring of the unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable governance, and economic mismanagement. Persistent and naked though the reality is, it remains a silent tragedy, one that remains largely unacknowledged and tolerated, perhaps because it is a poor man’s problem.
said Assefa Bequele, ACPF’s executive director.
Bequele further added,
It is completely unacceptable that children are still going hungry in Africa in the 21st century. The statistics are truly alarming. Child hunger is driven by extreme poverty, uneven and unequal economic growth, gender inequality and a broken food system. Although Africa now produces more food than ever, it hasn’t resulted in better diets.
Africa could have one billion undernourished, malnourished and hungry children and young people by 2050 if present levels continue undiminished. Over half of African countries are currently off course to meet targets required in the African regional nutrition strategy.
According to ACPF, Mauritius and South Africa are among the states with fewer children suffering from hunger, while the Central African Republic and Chad are the worst child-friendly nations.
Hungry Stomachs in Asia
Despite the rapid economic growth, the Asia-Pacific region has nearly a half billion people who go hungry as progress stalls in improving food security and basic living conditions.
Even well-to-do cities like Bangkok and the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, poor families cannot afford enough good food for their children, often with devastating long-term consequences for their health and future productivity.
In Bangkok, over a third of children were not getting a decent diet as of 2017. In Pakistan, only 4 percent of children were receiving a “minimally acceptable diet.”
According to the regional director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Kundhavi Kadiresan, to be able to meet the goal of reaching zero hunger in the region by 2030, 110,000 people need to be lifted out of hunger and malnutrition every single day.
Meanwhile, the number of malnourished people in the region has begun to rise, particularly in East and Southeast Asia, with almost no improvement in the past several years.
Long History of Starvation
Hunger across the world has been rising slowly. In the long-term, rates of malnutrition did fall from nearly 18 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2017, but hunger-related stunting that causes permanent impairment is worsening because of food insecurity and inadequate sanitation, with 79 million children younger than 5 across the region affected.
Lack of food results in a dangerous rapid weight loss. The condition is seen most often in India and other parts of South Asia but in Indonesia, Malaysia and Cambodia, affecting almost 1 to 10 children in Southeast Asia and 15 percent of children in South Asia.
70 percent of all malnourished children in the world live in Asia. 512 million adults and children in Asia consume too few calories, which accounts for over 12 percent of the total population of Asia.
The Subcontinent of Asia, including India and Bangladesh, has the highest rates, 16 percent, of malnutrition and the most numbers of the hungry in Asia. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) score for South Asia in 2013 decreased by 34 percent compared to the 1990 score.
In 1992, this region accounted for 28.8 percent of the world’s hungry people, however, in 2014 this number rose to 35.4 percent. This is partly owing to a reduced prevalence of hunger in other parts of the world, but also because of an increasing number of hungry people in this region.
In South Asia, 32 percent of all children are moderately or severely underweight, compared to 21 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the second-highest global rate.
98 percent of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries such as Ghana. The highest number of malnourished people, over 520 million, resides in Asia and the Pacific, in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.
In sub-Saharan Africa, over 243 million people are facing hunger in arid regions such as Ethiopia, Niger and Mali. Over 37 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean are combating to find enough to eat, in places like Guatemala and Haiti.
Most of these people live in rural areas, with agriculture as a primary occupation. As agriculture in most of these regions depends on ample rainfall, the changing climatic patterns are deeply affecting the crop outputs, hence, resulting in vast hunger and starvation of the residents of these regions.
Refugees and people living in conflict zones like Yemen, Syria, and Burkina Faso and many others that are living hand-to-mouth prior to the pandemic are particularly vulnerable. These people need humanitarian aid or government assistance that might not have earlier been required.
The current coronavirus pandemic could now double the number of hungry people around the globe, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020, according to the World Food Programme.
Pandemic Worsens the Situation
With coronavirus pandemic putting millions out of jobs, hunger across the globe is nowhere soon to be gone. The number is escalating by the day and many are expected to die of hunger in the upcoming climatic crisis.
The whole world is facing an unprecedented food crisis rising amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to WFP’s Chief Economist, the pandemic has caused both severe job losses and major disruptions in food supply chains.
Affording food has become difficult, with millions around the world are losing their jobs or getting their incomes cut. Meanwhile, lockdown measures and trade restrictions are making it harder to transport food from where it’s produced to where it’s needed, resulting in food going to waste in the field and increasing prices of food commodities.
Currently, the world does not has a shortage of food, but global food supplies are at risk of running low if farmers are not able to plant in time or receive fertilizer and other inputs in the coming months.
According to a new report from the United Nations, the coronavirus pandemic could push up to 132 million people into hunger by the end of 2020. The report also incorporated the latest version of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, which are published annually by U.N. agencies, including the World Health Organization.
The report stated that an economic recovery, expected in 2021, would bring the number of undernourished people into the picture. The pandemic is adversely affecting the current food supplies and stocks. As the progress in combating hunger stalls, the coronavirus is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems.
Unless the pandemic is controlled or abated, and humanitarian aid is not provided to the people, billions are at risk of starving to death.