‘Close to One Billion’ People Going Hungry. That’s Capitalism.

December 19, 2008 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

The food crisis has pushed the number of hungry, undernourished people in the world to almost 1bn, in what the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation described on Tuesday as a “serious setback” to global efforts to reduce mass starvation.

“The ongoing financial and economic crisis could tip even more people into hunger and poverty,” the FAO added.

The FAO said the number of undernourished people rose this year by 40m to about 963m people, after increasing by 75m in 2007. Before the food crisis, there were already 848m chronically hungry people in 2003-05. It’s getting worse.

“High food prices are driving millions of people into food insecurity, worsening conditions for many who were already food-insecure, and threatening long-term global food security,” the FAO said in its 2008 report.

The prices of wheat, corn and rice jumped to record levels earlier this year, causing food riots in countries from Haiti to Egypt to Bangladesh and prompting appeals for food aid for more than 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although food commodity prices have halved from this summer’s all-time highs, they remain well above pre-crisis levels. The cost of rice, for example, has halved since July, but it still trades at prices that are 95% above 2005 levels.

For 25 years the proportion of the world’s population on the brink of starvation has gone down. That improvement has now gone into reverse. The percentage has risen now to about 17%, up from a record low of 16% in the period 2003-05.

“For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream,” said the FAO’s assistant director general, Hafez Ghanem. “The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices remain a dire reality.”

The vast majority of the world’s undernourished people – more than 90m – live in poor countries, according to FAO estimates. Of these, 65% live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in three people – or almost 240m – are chronically hungry, the highest proportion of undernourished people in the total population.

Almost a decade ago, world leaders agreed targets for a halving between 1990 and 2015 in the number of people who go hungry. Jacques Diouf, FAO director-general, said in a foreword to the report that the task of achieving the UN’s hunger reduction targets in the remaining several years to 2015 will “require an enormous and resolute global effort and concrete actions”.

“This sad reality should not be acceptable at the dawn of the 21st century,” the FAO’s director general, Jacques Diouf, said in a speech to launch the report. “Not enough has been done to reduce hunger and not enough is being done to prevent more people becoming hungry.”

Under capitalism none of this is going to happen. Let’s resolve to build a better world that can feed the hungry.

This article first appeared on Socialist Appeal.

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This post was written by Fred McDowell

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