Who's really fighting hunger?

Report
from ActionAid
Published on 16 Oct 2009 View Original
ActionAid's HungerFREE Scorecard Investigates why a Billion People are Hungry

Executive Summary

Over one billion people - a sixth of humanity - don't have enough to eat. Almost a third of the world's children are growing up malnourished. This is perhaps one of the most shameful achievements of recent history, since there is no good reason for anyone to go hungry in today's world.

Even before the food and financial crises, the number of people facing chronic malnutrition was extremely high, and falling extremely slowly. Since 2005, it has jumped by 20 percent. An extra 170 million people have been pushed into hunger - equivalent to the populations of Germany, France and Canada combined.

Without concerted action by world leaders, the worst is yet to come. Food prices remain stubbornly high in developing countries;3 the global recession is hitting jobs and incomes; and climate change is battering rain-fed agriculture.

The heaviest price of rising world hunger, however, will be paid by our children. Already nearly one in three of the world's children is growing up chronically malnourished. As a result, many will die before the age of five. Those who survive are likely to suffer irreversible cognitive and physical damage. They will complete fewer years of school, and earn less as adults. Their immune systems permanently impaired, they are 12 times more likely to die from easily preventable and treatable diseases. The children of undernourished mothers often suffer stunting while still in the womb, ensuring the vicious cycle will continue.

However, hunger is a choice that we make, not a force of nature. Hunger begins with inequality - inequality between men and women, and between rich and poor. It grows because of perverse policies that treat food purely as a commodity, not a right. It is because of these policies that most developing countries no longer grow enough to feed themselves, and that their farmers are amongst the hungriest and poorest people in the world. Meanwhile, the rich world battles growing obesity.

But policies can be changed. In this scorecard, ActionAid tracks the dramatic progress that has been made when countries translate the right to food into concrete actions, such as investing in poor farmers, and introducing basic measures to protect the vulnerable. Their success makes the inaction and apathy of other countries all the more inexcusable.