How many of us know that 16th October is ‘World Food Day’? World Food Day is celebrated around the world that day, because it coincides with the establishment of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It is a day when people get together to declare their commitment to hunger in our lifetime. Hunger not only makes one suffer, it also affects health severely. The statistics of hunger are staggering and shocking. One in nine people on earth is currently under-nourished. Here are ten facts about hunger that you should be aware of:
1. There are currently 795 million people hungry people on earth. India itself is home to the largest under-nourished and hungry population, with 195 million people going hungry every day.
2. Close to 165 million children are stunted as a result of under-nutrition and infection, leaving them physically and intellectually weak. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, 24 countries with the highest levels of stunted children are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia alone.
3. Nearly half of all deaths in children under age 5 are attributable to under-nutrition. This translates into an unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year. In India itself, 3,000 children die every day due to malnutrition. Malnutrition also increases a child’s risk of dying from many diseases – most prominently measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
4. Around half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anemic, because they lack access to iron-rich foods. Anemia is responsible for causing 110 deaths during childbirth every year.
5. Though women make up a little over half of the world’s population, they account for 60% of the world’s hungry. In India, the nutrition of children is particularly worse because of the state of their mothers. 36 percent of Indian women are chronically under-nourished, from their childhood itself. This can be attributed to the fact that girl children are less wanted in a patriarchal society, where men receive food before women. Data from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh shows that girls represent up to 68 per cent of the children admitted to programmes for the severely malnourished.
6. To prevent hunger, a child needs to be taken care of the most during the first 1,000 days of its life, from pregnancy to age two. According to the World Food Programme, a proper diet during this period can protect children from mental and physical stunting that can result from malnutrition.
7. It costs just $0.25 (INR 16) per day to provide a child all the vitamins and nutrients he/she requires to grow healthy.
8. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), climate change and erratic weather patterns will push another 24 million children into hunger in the future.
9. There is enough food to feed everyone in the world. If total world food supplies are divided equally – all food grown divided into equal portions – there will be plenty for everyone, with some to spare; in fact, today the world produces 10 percent more food than is needed to feed everyone. But 30% to 50% of 1.2-2 billion tonnes of food produced around the world never makes it to a plate, and gets wasted.
10. Two types of acute malnutrition are wasting (also called marasmus) or nutritional oedema (also known as kwashiorkor). Wasting is characterised by rapid weight loss and can also lead to death.
Eradicating hunger is one of the key Sustainable Development Goals for 2015, and the target is to end hunger by 2030 and ensure food access to all parts of the population. Organizations like UNICEF are helping countries by supplying them with essential micronutrients like iron and Vitamin A which is essential for a healthy immune system. Organizations like Feeding India too are channeling excess food from individuals, corporates, weddings and restaurants to the ones in need. What we call food wastage can be converted into food security for others. Awareness about malnutrition is necessary to tackle this problem and help the world reach its target of reducing world hunger by fifty percent.