According to the United Nations, 2009 has been a devastating year for the world’s hungry, marking a significant worsening of an already disappointing trend in global food security since 1996. The global economic slowdown, following on the heels of the food crisis in 2006–08, has deprived an additional 100 million people of access to adequate food. There have been marked increases in hunger in all of the world’s major regions, and more than one billion people are now estimated to be undernourished.
The sharp spike in hunger triggered by the global economic crisis has hit the poorest people in developing countries hardest, revealing a fragile world food system in urgent need of reform, according to a report – The State of Food Insecurity – released earlier this week by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme.
“World leaders have reacted forcefully to the financial and economic crisis and succeeded in mobilizing billions of dollars in a short time period. The same strong action is needed now to combat hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.
Members of Parliament have tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the Government to provide the necessary leadership on hunger and undernutrition at the upcoming World Food Summit in Rome and to endorse the proposal for the adoption of voluntary National Declarations of Commitment to Eradication of Hunger and Malnutrition by 2025.
Nearly all the world’s undernourished live in developing countries. Asia and the Pacific is home to the largest number of hungry while Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hungry people, with more than one in three people being undernourished.
What is chronic hunger?
People who are chronically hungry are undernourished. They don’t eat enough to get the energy they need to lead active lives. Their undernourishment makes it hard to study, work or otherwise perform physical activities. Undernourishment is particularly harmful for women and children. Undernourished children do not grow as quickly as healthy children and mentally, they may develop more slowly. Constant hunger weakens the immune system and makes them more vulnerable to diseases and infections. Mothers living with constant hunger often give birth to underweight and weak babies, and are themselves facing increased risk of death.
Every day, millions of people around the world eat only the bare minimum of food to keep themselves alive. Every night, they go to bed not certain whether there will be enough food to eat tomorrow. This uncertainty about where the next meal will come from is called ‘food insecurity’.
The three main groups at most risk of hunger are the rural poor, the urban poor, and victims of catastrophes.