Hunger, Disease And Poverty

World Hunger causes and Effects



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Many of us living in the upper class nations of the world would most likely never experience what true hunger is. Hunger maybe what we consider the result of missing a meal or when our stomach growls, restless for food to fill its void. But hunger is not simply this. It is a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient such that weakness debilitation or pain is brought about by a prolonged lack of food. I don't believe many of us consumers have gone hungry' to the extent of agonizing pain.
No other disaster can compare to the devastation of hunger as the number of people who die every two days from it is equivalent to those killed instantly from the Hiroshima bomb in Japan. About 840 million people in the world are hungry. Ninety-five percent of these people live in a developing country (Appendix 4). Hunger is not simply caused by an insufficient food supply, overpopulation or by nature's wrath. It also cannon be solved instantly by wealth, technology or by democracy. Talking about hunger also means addressing poverty population growth, international economy, development, employment, agriculture and energy resources. Similarly, if we want to eliminate famine, we need to first understand the economic, social, ideological, political, philosophical, cultural and psychological perspective. Hunger is caused by global and social inequality between developed and developing countries. Trade policies, foreign aid and inefficient development programs usually result in developed nations taking advantage of developing nation rather than helping them.

Many may think there isn't enough food in the world to support everyone and such that in 2002 it resulted to having 840 million people in the world suffering from hunger and its effects. It is a common misconception that there isn't enough food to go around, but as we go about everyday eating carelessly, pacing up and down aisles upon aisles of shelves, bulging out with food from all over the world, how can we assume that? "Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs" (12 Myths). Trade policies, that emphasize deregulation and privatization, have led to a decline in economic growth in third world countries. Thus solving the hunger crisis is hindered as developing nations struggle to compete with capitalist nations who yield stronger economic structures in the free market. Free trade is like putting a rabbit and tiger in the same cage. In the global market, all countries are suppose to be equal with fair trade in exchanging good between each other, but this convention of free trade has not been successful. With over 80 percent of the malnourished children living in a developing country, food flow is needed in these unfortunate countries more that ever. Food should not be exported from developing countries to developed countries, but the other way around to where food is considered necessary and required. "In most Third World countries exports have boomed while hunger has continued or actually worsened" (12 Myths). Debts have forced undeveloped nations to overgraze and export agriculture to an unsustainable point, just to make ends meet. In reality, this situation is far from merely joining two points together, but to also construct a system where life can be lasting.
Debts have been a major contributor to the hunger crisis. Forced to borrow money from organizations such as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), these third world countries are subject to structural adjustment policies. These policies pose unreasonable and unsustainable constraints upon the livelihood of the citizens inhabiting these poor nations. The WB and the IMF are usually controlled by developed, more powerful nations, such as the Group of Eight (G8), and believe that competition from the free market will drive these undeveloped nations to progress, when the opposite is happening. Failing to see the damage that is already done, these aid lenders are only interested in any short term commercial interests that they can obtain. Thus, to repay the debts that developing countries owe, much of their resources are exported out or exploited (Appendix 5). Consequently, many industries that used to support the backbone of these third world nations now have to focus on exports to other nations so they can pay back the government, which in turn will pay back the IMF or the WB. Sadly due to this high focus on exporting out food, the people in these nations hardly have enough for themselves and thus, the hunger problem is created or worsened.
In addition to this crisis of the exportation of food surpluses, a tariff is usually charged on goods from developing nations that are exporting to developed nations. As dispersedly these countries need to export food cheaply for a profit, the dream of producing and selling at a high price with a high profit almost unreachable. In the world of free trade, the market controls the prices and what is bought and sold. Produces look to sell at the highest possible price, yet buyers look to purchase for the lowest, cheapest price. After knowing this, you make think that Africa has a definite advantage due to their cheap labour and the massive amount of labour workers to do it, yet it is not so. Since "African countries could produce some crops much more cheaply than in the United States or in Europe" (World Hunger), this would mean money loss for those in the developed countries. Reluctant to subject their farmers to the same economic situation as the rest of the world and compete in a place where they know they won't win; developed countries came up with a plan to charge tariffs or a tax on products from these developing nations. "In Britain, $1.6 million/ year is spent on subsidies. The price of a tariff free Britain sugar is cheaper than taxed African sugar" (World Hunger). How can we say that this is fair, when it is definitely not? During a World Trade Organization summit in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003,
"Four West African countries- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Benin- requested that the United Sates cut its $3 billion annual cotton subsidy (which totaled more than the value of the four countries' combined harvest) to American Farmers. Their request was denied, and 25,000 U.S. farmers shared the $3 billion" (World Hunger).

Unfortunately, because Europe, Asia and the US are the powerhouses of the world, they control the market with insignificant developing nations having no say.

The powerhouses of the world have contributed many things in the developing world with foreign aid being one of them.
"At the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, industrialized (developed) countries pledged to devote 0.7 percent of their annual income to Overseas Development Aid (ODA). Ten years later, only five nations met this target. (The United States gave 0.12 percent, while England gave 0.3 percent.)" (World Hunger).

How effective their actions were is up for debate. Foreign aid, including debt relief or cancellation, does not assist third world development in hunger alleviation as ineffective programs produces a feedback loop of famine and poverty. Similar to the debt situation, the more assistant these developing countries receive, the more they seem to sink into their problem of hunger.
An example of a catastrophic program that has been developed to assist third world countries is the World Bank (Appendix 1).
"Of the 66 less developed countries receiving money from thee World Bank for more than 25 years37 are no better today than they were before they received such loans. Of these 37 countries, 20 actually are worst off today than they were before receiving aid from the World Bank" (The Third World).

As these ineffective programs that cause more harm then good affect the economic growth of developing nations, these countries are continuously trapped in a viscous cycle of debt, hunger and poverty. Unable to grow economically due to the lack of economic freedom, wealth and prosperity are never seen. The World Bank itself was never meant for supporting the welfare institution of the world. It was first developed to support development post WWII in developing countries such as the ones within Europe.
Another effort in alleviation hunger was made at the World Food Summit where their goal was to halve the world hunger situation by 2015. "Although a few countries can claim significant gains in combating hunger, their success masks a worsening world situation: Since 1990, the number of undernourished people in the developing world increased by 80 million." (World Hunger) According to current statistics and predictions, the World food Summit will miss its target by approximately 200 million people (Appendix 3).
All these broken and failing programs have devastated the crisis in third world countries. Instead of pulling out of hunger, they are sucked in even further as the consequences of foreign aid eventually causes the initial condition to recur, if not worsen. In fact these terrible programs made to the third world harms the common taxpayer who helps indirectly in provided the aid by forcing them to support a program too big to carry (Appendix 2).

When you ask a typical American on their viewpoint on aid and foreign relief they would probably respond to you by saying they feel that the United States has done an excellent job and should even cut back on foreign aid to solve their deficit problem. Sad to say, the United States is ranked only fourth in foreign assistance and less than one percent of their budget accounts for foreign aid- far from the twenty percent many Americans believe. The reality is that eliminating foreign aid or even doubling it perhaps would not even make that smallest blimp on the radar screen for the U.S.'s deficit problem. Irrelevant methods of humanitarian development, which are meant for a first world dilemma, fail to address crucial elements in unraveling hunger such as basic, effective governance, support and motivation due to a basic misconception about aid.
Humanitarian relief programs have not been any help in aiding the situation that is occurring in the third world. Many times, these humanitarian efforts are ineffective such as that of the development in Somalia.
"In December, Pierre Glassmann, the African Deleegate- General for the Red Cross, demanded to know How come UNICEF-Somalia has thirteen people in Nairobi and no one in Somalia?' Marco Barsotti of the United Nations Development Program responded astoundingly, "In a situation of war, we don't operate" (The Third World).

How can we say that these programs work when clearly in a situation of war, UNICEF stated that they won't help? Then what is the point of this aid? "Consequently, official humanitarian aid to provide short-term disaster relief, although not harmful, has often proven to be redundant" (The Third World). In another situation, a program developed by the Americans called Food for Peace was created in the name of long termed relief for underdeveloped countries.
"As Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, explains, "Food for Peace was created more to dump surplus American crops in foreign markets than to alleviate starvation; just 14 percent of the food shipments go to disaster-stricken areasAs a result, Food for Peace has tended to discourage agricultural development in poor countries" (The Third World).

Due to the cheap prices of American grown agriculture from tax subsidies and government support, many times mountains of food go to waste or storage, untouched and rotting away. Programs such as Food for Peace are just merely an excuse to get rid of junk and giving it away with the ideal of one man's trash is another man's treasure.' Developing countries don't need leftovers but a new beginning from these developed countries if we are to see true improvement in hunger and poverty elimination.
Another crazy' idea to assist' the third world was to enforce a government of democracy like we have in the most developed nations on them. The incentives was if developed countries have a democracy and were doing well, putting the same democracy on developing nations should make them improve also. Many have tried in attempts to change the social and political structures of these nations but most of fail with this aid.
"The European Western democracy states: nation wise political parties, a parliament, the office of president, and even a national anthem and a flag. But the results have been tragic. In Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya it has been a matter of which tribal leader can fight his way to the top by ruthless means. Thus, we now see such tyrants as Suddam Hussein and Hasfez Assad in power" (The Third World).

How can we say that a governmental system will aid these countries into development and therefore improve their social conditions? The social structures of these countries are defiantly more complicated than those of the technological world. Values are in the tribes and not the state as "First loyalties usually are to the family, then the tribe and perhaps further to a coalition of tribes" (The Third World). Developed nations should not make the same mistake on enforcing western policies on the east as they did many years ago by drawing borders for so-called countries. We already forced angry tribes to live together, and if that wasn't enough, we are going to try to make them work and walk hand-in-hand together? I don't think so. What is needed is the understanding that essential and basis entrepreneurial skills and motivation is needed. Aid is too loose of a term used to cover up devious acts with other intentions then help in mind. We also cannot forget that "If however, the conditions for development are not present, than aid-which in these circumstances will be the only source of external capital-will be necessarily unproductive and therefore ineffective" (Ending Hunger). We need to look at the number of developing nations pulling out of poverty to say that our alleviation efforts are truly effective.

In the poorest countries of the world, debt repayments divert scarce financial resources from social investments necessary for sustainable development.
"Enforced poverty in the Third World jeopardizes U.S. jobs, wages, working conditions as corporations seek cheaper labour abroad. In a global economy, what American workers have achieved in employment, wage levels and working conditions can be protected only when people in every country are freed from economic desperation" (12 Myths).

The mindsets of industrialized nations fail to see the basic elements these underdeveloped countries need. Rather than giving them more restrictions and oppression, freedom and a chance to develop on a balanced playing field is essential. To be on the pathway to end world hunger, even by the end of this decade, opportunity as a world community has to be seized. Although there isn't a one-size fits all solution to world hunger, steps should be taken to improve the economic status of these impoverished countries. There may be no flashing neon warning sign to signal us when the end is near, but eventually, what happens in the third world will effect the first world. Next time you are in a supermarket, take some time to purchase Fair Trade products or even encourage the market to sell more of these products. Support food banks and programs that actually assist developing countries in a positive way. Read more about world hunger and don't let the government or corporations get the better of you. Hunger is not just a dilemma in the developing worlds; it is one that you can help with.

Works Cited:
"12 Myths About Hunger". Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy. Summer 2006.

"Agriculture". Statistics Canada. September 12, 2006.

"Bread for the World". Bread for the World & Bread for the World Institute. 2006.

"Hunger Notes". World Hunger Education Service. September 26, 2006.

Egendorf, K. Laura et al. The Third World. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 2000.

"Introduction: What is Hunger/Famine?". Doctors Without Borders. 2005

Maddock, Steven. World Hunger. Milwaukee: World Almanac Library, 2005.

Moeller, D. Susan. Compassion Fatigue. London: Routledge, 1999.

The Hunger Project. Ending Hunger. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1985.

Wiebe, Keith et al. Who Will Be Fed in the 21st Century? Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.

More about this author: Camila Kwan

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