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HUNGER: The Monster Gulps A Child Every Six Seconds

Posted on January 24, 2010 in Society

Avnish Gaurav:

Let’s do a bit of flashback and turn our calendars 15 years back. Many of us had not even imagined going to space for honeymoon, having an island of our own or such cheap call rates on mobile. But today we can avail of all such facilities. Ironically no one would have ever imagined that 1 in every 6 persons would be undernourished 15 years down the line. Please do not panic as you read some more startling facts and figures about hunger.

About a billion people do not have enough to eat – more than the total populations of USA, Canada and the European Union. The number of undernourished people in the world increased by 75 million in 2007 and 40 million in 2008, largely due to higher food prices.

* Every six seconds a child dies because of hunger and related causes.
* More than 70 percent of the world’s 146 million underweight children under the age of five years live in just 10 countries, with more than 50 per cent located in South Asia alone.
* 10.9 million children under the age of five die in the developing countries each year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of these deaths.
* The cost of undernourishment to national economic development is estimated at US $20-30 billion per annum. One out of four children – roughly 146 million – in developing countries is underweight.

The dictionary definition of hunger is ‘the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite OR the want or scarcity of food in a country’. World hunger is concerned with the second part of the definition. The World Health Organization cites malnutrition as the gravest single threat to the world’s public health.

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day. Yet hunger persists in many parts of the world. Reasons being attributed to Harmful economic systems, Poverty, Conflicts and Climate change. The money spent on one day of the Iraq war could buy homes for almost 6,500 families or health care for 423,529 children, or could outfit 1.27 million homes with renewable electricity, according to the American Friends Service Committee, which displayed those statistics on large banners in cities nationwide Thursday and Friday. The war is costing $720 million a day or $500,000 a minute, according to the group’s analysis of the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard public finance lecturer Linda J. Bilmes.

Still everything is not lost. In fact some improvements have been made in this direction. In its sixty years of existence, UNICEF has seen a fifty per cent reduction in under-five mortality between 1960 and 2002. Ninety countries, 53 of them from developing nations, should be able to meet the 2015 Goal of reducing child mortality by two-thirds, if they maintain their current annual reduction rate. On the other side, the number of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS is projected to reach 25 million by the end of the decade, 18 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. The threats facing child survival are as grave as ever.

Governments have been trying since decades to solve these fundamental humanitarian problems. Instead of improving or at least stabilizing, it is in fact worsening. The general attitude towards the solution needs an overhaul. Every citizen, especially the youth should take it as their moral responsibility to try their level best towards putting forth a formidable solution. Only then can the problem be even imagined to be solved at any point of time.

In an ironic twist, studies have found that along with hunger, obesity is also becoming a growing problem in some developing nations. In Morocco, for example, 21 percent of women are obese, while 34 percent of women in Mexico are severely overweight. The only thing we can say as a concluding remark is:-

“We know how to prevent the deaths of millions of children, now we just have to do it.”