The Hunger Project’s impact on population
Population is linked to hunger – but not the way many people believe. We tend to grow up thinking that the problem of hunger is caused by overpopulation – too many people and not enough food. Some people even believe that deaths due to hunger actually help slow population growth.
In fact, the opposite is more nearly true. In modern history, hunger-related deaths have never been a major portion of the overall death rate. Yet, the insecurity caused by hunger-related high infant mortality rates causes parents to have more children, earlier, as a form of insurance – thus driving up the birth rates.
In every country where infant mortality rates have dropped, drops in birthrates have followed.
The underlying truth of the matter is that the same social factors that give rise to hunger also give rise to high population growth rates. Only by addressing these root causes can both problems be solved. This is the work of The Hunger Project – and of a growing number of organizations committed to these issues.
The most important of these conditions is the subjugation of women. When the education and well-being of women improves – and when women gain voice in decision making – birth rates plummet.
When The Hunger Project started, this understanding of the links between hunger, poverty and population were a “minority” view. By 1993, however, at the Cairo Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the world community aligned on this understanding. In the Plan of Action, there were four major goals, in this order:
- Universal Education: “all countries are urged to ensure the widest and earliest possible access by girls and women to secondary and higher levels of education, as well as to vocational education and technical training”, bearing in mind the need to improve the quality and relevance of that education.”
- Reduction of Infant and Child Mortality. “By 2015, all countries should aim to achieve an infant mortality rate below 35 per 1,000 live births and an under-five mortality rate below 45 per 1,000.”
- Reduction of Maternal Mortality. “Countries with the highest levels of maternal mortality should aim to achieve by 2005 a maternal mortality rate below 125 per 100,000 live births and by 2015 a maternal mortality rate below 75 per 100,000 live births.”
- Access to Primary and Reproductive Health. “All countries should strive to make accessible through the primary health-care system, reproductive health to all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible and no later than the year 2015.”
These are goals that are being met in the thousands of villages mobilized by The Hunger Project, and we intend to use our influence and strategies to catalyze the process of achieving them throughout the developing world.