The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of UN defines hunger, food deprivation, or undernourishment, as ‘the consumption of too few calories to provide the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a healthy and productive life, given that person’s sex, age, stature, and physical activity level.’ The Hunger Project on World Hunger Day May 28, 2020, is committed to raise awareness on hunger and find sustainable solutions to end it. Only if you have gone hungry to bed you will understand ‘what is hunger’. And, I don’t mean you raise your hand if you are dieting or otherwise, knowing pretty well a meal is only a refrigerator away. Yes, if I am allowed to say it, hunger is a curse. Today more than 821 million people in the world are living in chronic hunger.
Statistics on World Hunger
- 11% of the world’s population does not get enough food.
- 60% of the global hungry population is made up of women.
- 9.1 million deaths each year are traced due to hunger.
- 25,000 people die from hunger each day.
- 2000 people in Africa die every day due to famines.
- World’s hunger has reduced by 27% since 1992.
The Causes of Hunger
Today the corona virus (COVID-19) global pandemic, has further directly impacted the food supply chain and is leading to a crisis among daily wage workers who are unable to earn a livelihood and thereby facing household food insecurity. World hunger is also attributed to causes like:
- Bad weather conditions affecting crops
- Natural disasters like drought
- Conflicts and wars
- Falling crop prices
- Rising prices of food
- Low wages, unemployment & poverty
- 1/3rd of the food produced is lost or wasted globally (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation
How is Hunger measured?
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels. It is measured for each country with values determined by four indicators
- Undernourishment: the proportion of the population that is undernourished due to insufficient calorie intake.
- Child Wasting: the proportion of children under the age of five, suffering from wasting which is low weight for height.
- Child Stunting: the proportion of children up to 5 years, suffering from stunting or who suffer low height for their age.
- Child Mortality: the rate of deaths /mortality in children due to inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments.
GHI is announced every October, jointly by Welthungerhilfe, Germany, and Concern Worldwide, Ireland. It ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score and 100 being the worst. The scores indicate the severity of hunger as in –
- Low ≤ 9.9
- Moderate 10.0-19.9
- Serious 20.0-34.9
- Alarming 35.0-49.9
- Extremely alarming ≥ 50.0
The above is backed by data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Interagency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME), UNICEF, World Health Organization (WHO), and World Bank.
Countries in GHI Ranking
As per the 2019 GHI, the top 5 hungriest countries in the world which have the maximum percentage of undernourished people and people dying because of malnutrition-related diseases are –
- Central African Republic (53.6%)
- Yemen (45.9%)
- Chad (44.2%)
- Madagascar (41.5%)
- Zambia (38.1%)
On the other end of the scale at less than 5% GHI are the least hungry countries like Turkey, Slovak Republic, Uruguay, Kuwait, and Bulgaria.
How hungry is India?
Out of 117 countries India ranks 102nd in the Global Hunger Index 2019. Though India’s GHI scores decelerated from 2005 (38.9%) to 2010 (32%) to 2019 (30.3%), India still remains ‘serious’.
- 14.9% of India’s population is undernourished.
- 21% of children under the age of 5 are underweight in India.
- 9.6% of children aged 6 to 23 months do not get proper nutrition.
- 1 out of every 4 Indian children are malnourished.
- India’s child wasting rate of 20.8% was the highest in 2019.
- Percentage of child stunting dropped from 61.9% in 1992 to 37.8% in 2019.
- Percentage of under-five mortality stands at 37 deaths per 1000 births.
Does food wastage contribute to a hungry India?
One-third the world’s poor live in India. Food wastage in India is a serious concern with 194 million Indians going hungry daily. Wastage is highest at weddings, canteens, hotels, and restaurants. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted. This happens at various stages including production, harvesting, processing, packaging, transportation, retailing and consumption. Though India produces enough food to meet the needs of its entire population it never reaches the needy due to reasons like – poor warehousing, old storage methods, limited refrigerated transport, lack of modern logistics, illegal hoarding, and high food prices. Stockpiles of food are left to rot resulting in 14.5% population remaining undernourished and 1% p.a. loss to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Yes, food wastage associated with the disparity of incomes does play a significant role in a hungry India.
- 67 million tonnes of food amounting to INR 92,000 crores is wasted every year.
- 21 million metric tonnes of wheat rots every year.
- Mumbai generates 9400 metric tonnes of solid waste of which 73% is food, vegetable and fruit waste.
The Hunger Project
The Hunger Project founded in 1977 at the World Food Conference in Rome, is a global, non-profit, strategic organization committed to the sustainable end of world hunger. The Indian chapter of the project was established in 1984 and currently works across seven states. The Hunger Project engages with local government through the Panchayati Raj Campaign to address issues of hunger and poverty that go hand-in-hand. It aims to:
- Bring self-reliance by creating work opportunities,
- Partner with local governments to improve healthcare facilities,
- Empower women
- Increase awareness about the impact of climate change to raise the population above the poverty line.
Additional Initiatives in India
– Kisan Sampada Yojana (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) allocated INR 6,000 crore (2016-20) to create processing and preservation capacities and modernization/ expansion of existing food processing units to increase the level of processing, value addition to reduce food wastage.
– Indian Food Sharing Alliance (IFSA) set up by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) works with Food Businesses, NGO’s, Corporates, Government and Local Bodies to prevent food wastage from production to consumption.
– Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Feeding India, Robin Hood Army, Annamrita (formerly ISKCON Food Relief Foundation), and numerous other local NGOs are lending a helping hand to collect excess food and provide it to the hungry.
– In the recent corona crisis when some people campaigned to honor PM Modi by standing for five minutes, he simply said ‘I don’t need standing ovation, honor me by feeding poor during Covid-19 crisis.
The End to Sleeping on a Hungry Stomach
193 countries in 2015, pledged to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG2-Zero Hunger) states “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.”
How much will it cost the world to end hunger?
The CEO of Hunger Project Joel Berg, has estimated a cost of USD 25 billion to end hunger. According to him, “a combination of increased wages and improved safety net programs” would be needed.
The steps needed to end hunger
- Creation of jobs and reducing unemployment.
- Introduce government programs to supplement incomes for poverty stricken families.
- Introduce food stamps.
- Improve child nutrition.
- Give access to reasonably priced healthy food.
- Educate the girl child to empower the woman of tomorrow.
- Introduce seed programs to grow vegetables locally.
- Teach people to grow their food in a small garden space
As Mahatma Gandhi said, “there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” On World Hunger Day, let us collectively work to rid this curse called HUNGER!