Inside Story

Why are so many people still hungry?

On the occasion of World Food Day, we analyse what has been achieved and what challenges still face food security.

Last Modified: 17 Oct 2013 12:47
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According to a report from the United Nations, there has been a decrease in the amount of starving people around the world, which was good news on World Food Day on Wednesday.

Statistics reflect that there are now fewer mouths left unfed in the world, but the number of starving people is still staggering - more than 800 million in the developing world alone. 

This is very good news, and especially a reason to do more …. One should not forget that there are more than two billion people who are malnourished … lacking essential … vitamins, and minerals which are absolutely essential for good health, and it’s especially important for children ... so it’s not only the global figures of hunger to keep in mind, but also what is called hidden hunger - people who are not fed as they need to be.

Alexandre Meybeck, Food and Agriculture Organisation

Nourishment, and the lack of it, is the backdrop to World Food Day, which is celebrated every year on October 16 to mark the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). 

But there is little to celebrate as some parts of Africa are experiencing the worst drought they have seen in decades.

About 1.5 million people in southern Angola, and more than 778,000 in northern Namibia, do not have enough food or water. If nothing is done, a severe famine will be on its way, according to UN reports.

For many in Africa, and in other parts of the world, undernourishment is already a reality. Zambia, Mozambique and Ethiopia are of the biggest concern.
In Asia, Laos and North Korea stand as some of the most undernourished countries, and even India, with its population of more than 1.2 billion, has a major issue with food security.

However, it is not all bad news. Between 2011 and 2013, a total of 827 million people were hungry in developing nations; that's 169 million less than the same statistic 20 years ago.
More than 60 countries have reached, or are expected to reach, their Millennium Development hunger targets, and the Global Hunger Index released this week shows that overall, sub-Saharan Africa has a better score than South Asia. That is a twist on the thinking that Africa has the worst levels of hunger and it is a show of progress for the continent.

The world's population is expected to reach more than nine billion by 2050 and much of the planet's arable land already in use. Inventors and innovators are now thinking of new ways to meet food shortage needs, such as artificial farms, vertical farms, and growing produce on rooftops.

So, is it possible to achieve sustainable food security across the world? And what does it really take to feed the hungry?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Alexandre Meybeck from the Food and Agriculture Organisation; Jon Bennett, an author and specialist on the modern challenges of food security; and Heidi Chow who is a food justice campaigner focused on the funding of food.

"One thing we have to understand is that there is a shifting demographic issue here. Fifty years ago many of the poor people in the world would be in rural areas, and during food shortages they wouldn’t be susceptible to food prices … but [now] 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas, which means that they no longer depend on their own production of food but rather on buying food, and once you get into that economic issue, you are talking about whether people can afford to buy their food rather than simply grow it themselves. And then they become very susceptible to rising food prices, and this is one of the major issues that we are facing at the moment: growing malnutrition among the urban populations, particularly poor populations … and food insecurity is just not a matter of shortages in quantity, but also quality."

Jon Bennet,  author and specialist on the modern challenges of food security 


Al Jazeera
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