Society

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

If you get hungry, what would you do next? Perhaps, you would grab the phone and order a take-out.

Perhaps you will head to the kitchen and cook a simple meal for yourself.

The point is: you have options to satisfy your hunger. You have a pantry filled with (hopefully) nutritious food, instead of junk food!

You also have the means to stock up your refrigerator when your food supply gets low. Unfortunately, there are millions of others who don’t.

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

Source: Citi Newsroom (Taken from: https://citinewsroom.com/2018/09/global-hunger-increasing-un-warns/)

A Deeper Meaning to Hunger

Let’s begin with the definition of hunger. It’s more serious than the hunger pangs we feel when we miss breakfast or lunch.

The United Nations (UN) Hunger Report defines hunger as ‘periods when populations are experiencing severe food insecurity, which means that they could go for entire days without eating due to lack of money, access to food, and other resources.1

Think about that for a second. We may get hungry for a few hours after missing a meal, but others on this planet are hungry because they have not had a meal for days!

It can also make us think twice before complaining that we have no food! We have to be thankful that we have food security, while they do not.

What exactly is food security? Food security has to do with the availability and access to food that a person has.2

Let’s also get to know some of these other terms commonly associated with the problem of hunger:

  1. Malnutrition: This is what happens when a person gets too much or too little nutrition. Malnutrition can then lead to health complications such as stunted growth, eye problems, and heart diseases.3
  2. Undernutrition: This is a form of malnutrition and happens when there is a reduced supply of food.4

The UN reported that almost 690 million people in the world were undernourished in 2019, which is equivalent to 8.9% of the world’s population.5 If that is not terrible enough, here are even more devastating statistics:

  1. The number of undernourished people grew by 10 million from 2018 to 2019.6
  2. There are close to 60 million more undernourished people now than it was in 2014.7
  3. If the present trend persists, this number could exceed 840 million by 2030.8

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) (Taken from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/)

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

The world has also received a grim warning from the UN: if no serious action is taken to tackle this issue, the zero-hunger target by 2030 will not be achieved.

The zero-hunger target is also known as the Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2), which is part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the UN. The aim of SDG 2 is ‘to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.’9

Some of its specific targets include ensuring that the poor, people in vulnerable conditions, and infants have access to a constant supply of nutritious food and the implementation of sustainable food production systems.

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

Source: www.redanywhere.co.uk (Taken from: http://www.infographicblog.co.uk/world-hunger-infographic)

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

Source: United Nations India (Taken from: n.one.un.org/page/sustainable-development-goals/sdg-2/)

How Can This Happen?

As you read this, you might be wondering what are some of the causes that can lead to this? Here are among the main causes:

1. Economic Factors: If a country does not have robust economic policies in place to overcome a major financial crisis, citizens will have to pay the price, especially when inflation rates get higher while the income level of the population remains the same or reduces. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations or FAO reported that in the past decade alone, many poorer nations have increased their debts and it is estimated that almost 10% of the global population survives on $1.90 a day, or less!10

2. War or Pandemic: In war-stricken countries, people can get uprooted out of their homes, and can also end up starving when food supply is limited. Similarly, during a pandemic, food prices may soar as food production and distribution processes get disrupted. When this happens, poorer families may have to go hungry when they can no longer afford to buy food. For example, one of the major consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic is a rise in poverty. The World Bank estimates that 150 million people around the world are expected to experience extreme poverty in 2021.11

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO)
(Taken from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/)

3. Environmental Conditions: When there is a flood, drought, earthquake, or other natural disaster, it can impact the food production and distribution process, and eventually reduce the food supply in the market. This will then increase food prices, and when this happens, poorer people will be impacted the most.

4. Unstable Food Prices: One of the consequences of the 2007-2008 financial crisis is the increase in food prices in developing countries, which are still recovering from an earlier global food crisis.12 In 2009, the prices of staple food in certain countries such as wheat, rice, and corn increased sharply. It caused an additional 50 – 100 million people to experience hunger.13 When prices of staple food fluctuate easily, it takes its biggest toll on those living in poverty, as even a slight difference might mean that they would not have their next meal.

A World Without Hunger

Creating a world without hunger is possible, but it requires teamwork between the lawmakers, businesses owners, and individual citizens of a country to do this. Some of the initiatives that can be done are:

1. Developing resilient food systems: Governments should consider ways to increase funding and support towards smallholder farmers who often suffer losses due to a lack of knowledge and training in preserving their crops. They are also the ones who suffer a lot when there is a natural disaster. Governments can work with larger business owners to train these farmers and even provide subsidies from them to invest in modern equipment.

2. Supporting families living in poverty: More than just giving them the food they need to survive; they need help to break free from the poverty cycle such as job placements, training, and education. This would help restore dignity to these families. Governments can work with the private sectors to introduce initiatives like these. Members of the public can also be a part of this movement.

3. Increase the number of food banks in communities: To reduce food wastage in a community, governments can work towards making food banks available so people may donate extra food items. Many individuals are rising with their initiatives to set up food banks, instead of depending solely on their governments to carry it out. For example, Malaysian entrepreneur and socialite, Shen-Tel Lee set up the Kuching Food Aid programme to provide food for the needy in Kuching. This initiative came as a response after she discovered many poor people were going hungry when the Covid-19 pandemic took its toll on them.

Hunger Pangs: The Heart-Breaking Reality Behind Global Hunger

Source: Kuching Food Aid’s Instagram (Taken from: https://www.instagram.com/p/CIrf86wBHEC/?igshid=14jn4erx79go7)

Take a Step and Change a World

At the end of the day, there are many things we can do on our own to help someone.

It can start by making a choice not to waste food, which means we only buy what we need and take some extra time to store leftover food in the refrigerator and cook it the next day, instead of throwing them away.

It even can be a wider community effort such as volunteering at a food bank or raising funds to buy food for poor families.

But the choice to make this change is in your hands. Somewhere out there a child is crying himself to sleep because he is hungry.

That is why your first step could change someone’s world. Are you ready?

Reference

[1] “World Hunger: Key Facts and Statistics.” ActionAgainstHunger, Feb. 9. 2021, actionagainsthunger.org/world-hunger-facts-statistics

[2] “World Hunger: Key Facts and Statistics.” ActionAgainstHunger, Feb. 9. 2021, actionagainsthunger.org/world-hunger-facts-statistics

[3] “Malnutrition: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Healthline, Feb. 9, 2021, healthline.com/nutrition/malnutrition

[4] “Undernutrition.” MedicalDictionary, Feb. 9, 2021, https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/undernutrition

[5] “Global Hunger Fell for Decades, But It’s Rising Again.” WorldEconomicForum, Feb. 10, 2021, weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/

[6] “World Hunger: Key Facts and Statistics.” ActionAgainstHunger, Feb. 9. 2021, actionagainsthunger.org/world-hunger-facts-statistics

[7] “Global Hunger Fell for Decades, But It’s Rising Again.” WorldEconomicForum, Feb. 9, 2021, weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/

[8] Global Hunger Fell for Decades, But It’s Rising Again.” WorldEconomicForum, Feb. 9, 2021, weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/

[9] “Sustainable Development Goal 2.” Wikipedia, Feb. 9, 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_Development_Goal_2#:~:text=Sustainable%20Development%20Goal%202%20%28SDG%202%20or%20Global,and%20improved%20nutrition%20and%20promote%20sustainable%20agriculture%20%22.

[10] “Global Hunger Fell for Decades, But It’s Rising Again.” WorldEconomicForum, Feb. 10, 2021, weforum.org/agenda/2020/07/global-hunger-rising-food-agriculture-organization-report/

[11] “How the Covid-19 Pandemic Has Highlighted the Issue of Food Security.” LongevityLive, Feb. 10, 2021, longevitylive.com/food/how-the-covid-19-pandemic-has-highlighted-the-issue-of-food-security/

[12] “Chapter IV: The Global Food Crisis.” United Nations, Feb. 11, 2021, un.org/esa/socdev/rwss/docs/2011/chapter4.pdf

[13] “What Causes Hunger.” Bread, Feb. 10, 2021, bread.org/what-causes-hunger

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