By Thomas Sullivan
Where does starvation exist in the world today? What are some of the causes of world hunger? Are citizens of developed countries donating monetarily to the ongoing relief efforts? In this article I will address these questions with the hope that by creating an understanding of the current world hunger situation, morally conscious individuals will do their part in contributing to the eradication of this unseen suffering.
It is a well known fact that there is enough food in the world to feed every human being on earth. Sadly, malnutrition and hunger still afflict one out of every seven people in the world today. No matter how you examine the issue, a current crisis is at hand. Why is this so?
The causes of starvation are complex, but there are some common threads that seem to be associated with this problem. First and foremost, starvation is caused by poverty. To address the problem of world hunger then the problem of global poverty must be addressed. Therefore, the question that we should examine is what are the causes of poverty. A thorough discussion on the causes of global poverty is outside the purview of this article. Entire textbooks have been written on the subject. For our discussion, it is suffice to say that one of the major causes of poverty is governments pursuing policies that inhibit self sufficiency.
Areas of starvation are also characterized by persistent problems in cultivating food from lack of seed, arable land, and tools. Those that can grow food, must deal with insects, drought, floods, and war, which can result in complete destruction of crops. Historically, areas of Africa have experienced periodic locusts infestations, which can completely destroy crops.
Other causes of world hunger are related to the globalize system of food production. The globalize system of food production and trade favors a reliance on export crops while discriminating against small-scale farmers and subsistence crops. Many third world countries export out to much food while concomitantly not keeping enough food to sustain their own people.
AIDS is a significant cause of hunger. In societies affected by AIDS, famine is more deadly and difficult to combat. Why is this so? AIDS attacks the most productive individuals within society. Fewer productive people within society means fewer individuals to work the jobs that involve food production. This is one contributor to the starvation currently taking place in Africa.
Weather plays a major role in terms of the prevalence of starvation. Areas of drought leads to non-useable land with subsequent famine. This is well known. But less well known is that floods can also lead to starvation. Crops can be flooded and therefore destroyed, which in essence produces the same result as drought. In both cases, weather can produce a complete lack of self sufficiency.
Military conflicts, both internal and between neighboring countries, can lead to starvation. These conflicts can result in destruction of crops. Government money is directed at funding the conflict at the expense of the starving people. Funds are diverted from social and economic development. Military conflicts can also result in the displacement of large groups of people, removing them from their farms and their way of life. People can end up in refugee camps, completely dependent on relief aid.
The causative factors of world hunger are numerous, and certain factors change from year to year, therefore at any given time, some areas may be more prone then others. The extent of drought, flood, internal conflicts, and war with neighboring countries can vary over time. Therefore, these factors incorporate a variable affect on the degree to which inhabitants of susceptible countries suffer from starvation.
A combination of these causative factors in a particular region is a formula for disaster. When this occurs, large scale starvation can take place. A case in point. The Horn of Africa has seen severe drought coupled with internal conflicts. This is leading to the development of a tragedy. In this region currently 11 million people are on the brink of starvation.
Historically, certain areas of the world have had a high prevalence of hunger and starvation. These areas are the central region of South America, large areas of East, Central, and Southern Africa, and regions of South Asia. As of 2006, the current hot spots, those areas which are suffering the greatest degree of starvation, are as follows:
This area in central Africa has been struggling to cope with the devastating impact of drought and locusts infestations.
In this region extreme poverty has been further exacerbated by a political crisis, floods, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
Horn of Africa:
An estimated 11 million people in the Horn of Africa “are on the brink of starvation” because of severe drought and war. Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia need food aid, water, new livestock and seeds. This is a major hunger crisis in development.
Poverty in Afghanistan, made worse by drought, has contributed greatly to their hunger problem.
The recent earthquake coupled with a severe winter have produced starvation conditions. Recently, mud slides have hampered relief efforts.
Food insecurity caused by the countries economic problems, is compounded by unpredictable and severe weather conditions. To date, the North Korean government has failed in its duty to provide for it‘s starving people. The North Korean government has actually refused foreign aid.
A 40 year civil conflict and the illegal drug trade have caused mass displacement and poverty.
Democratic Republic of Congo:
3.4 million people have been internally displaced as a result of a continuing internal conflict.
They are struggling to cope with the devastating impact of a recent drought.
Erratic weather, lack of seed and fertilizer, chronic poverty, and AIDS have been contributing factors to starvation.
These are the areas of the world which are currently suffering the highest levels of malnutrition and hunger. With this understanding of where relief efforts are needed, we must address the question of individual response. Are individuals of developed countries donating to relief efforts? Most morally conscious individuals donate to relief efforts when the problem is presented to them.
A major problem in the relief effort is the general population of developed countries not knowing about the current hunger crisis. News organizations, more specifically television news, are not giving enough attention to the global hunger situation. While an in depth discussion as to the reasons for this is outside the purview of this article, a few points can be made.
Evidently, the American TV news organizations, do not think world hunger is much of a story since starvation is a daily occurrence. I suspect, from the perspective of these news organizations, that 24,000 people per day dying from hunger is not a big enough news story. When 1,386 people died from hurricane Katrina, the news coverage was enormous. Five months after hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, TV news organizations were still squeezing all they could out of this story. Granted this was an obvious tragedy, but an even bigger tragedy, much bigger, is going on in Africa and the general public does not even know about it.
I have seen little to almost no coverage given by American TV news organizations on the devastating hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. I have only learned of this crisis through RSS feeds on the Internet. Television news organizations such as CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC are thus far not reporting on this crisis. Hopefully this will change.
It is evident that the American TV news organizations do not really provide total and complete news, rather they screen the events and only provide what they feel may be interesting to their audience. News organizations should present the news and concomitantly maintain high journalistic standards. Maybe these news organizations need to incorporate a higher level of moral obligation into their decision making process, when deciding which stories to cover. In any case, people can not donate if they do not know the problem exists.
We have addressed some key questions in order to characterize the current status of the world hunger situation. We have examined where hunger is the most prevalent in the world today, and we have identified some of the causative factors which contribute to malnutrition, hunger, and starvation. We have concluded that most morally conscious individuals would contribute to the elimination of hunger, if they knew about the crisis. Finally, we have observed that the degree of world hunger coverage by TV news organizations is very much lacking.
Even though TV news organizations have not been covering the current world hunger crisis, by reading this article, you have developed an understanding of the degree to which starvation is prevalent in the world today. If you are reading this in a developed country, which is highly likely since you are reading it on a computer which has Internet access, you have a moral obligation to donate either time or money to help in the elimination of unseen suffering. Winston Churchill once said “we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” We must all do our part to eliminate world hunger.
About the Author:
Thomas Sullivan is a Webmaster, and activist for world hunger elimination. He has built and currently maintains several websites. A relevant website he currently manages is located at http://hungerrelieforganizations.atspace.com. For questions or comments his email can be found on his website.