Hunger and World Poverty
About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every three and a half seconds, as you can see on this display. Unfortunately, it is children who die most often.
Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.
There are effective programs to break this spiral. For adults, there are “food for work” programs where the adults are paid with food to build schools, dig wells, make roads, and so on. This both nourishes them and builds infrastructure to end the poverty. For children, there are “food for education” programs where the children are provided with food when they attend school. Their education will help them to escape from hunger and global poverty.
Hunger and World Poverty Sources: United Nations World Food Program (WFP), Oxfam, UNICEF.
Note: The world hunger map display above is representational only and does not show the names and faces of real people. The photographs are computer composites of multiple individuals.
• Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
• The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest people combined.
• Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
• Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
• 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).
Poverty is the state for the majority of the world’s people and nations. Why is this? Is it enough to blame poor people for their own predicament? Have they been lazy, made poor decisions, and been solely responsible for their plight? What about their governments? Have they pursued policies that actually harm successful development? Such causes of poverty and inequality are no doubt real. But deeper and more global causes of poverty are often less discussed.
Behind the increasing interconnectedness promised by globalization are global decisions, policies, and practices. These are typically influenced, driven, or formulated by the rich and powerful. These can be leaders of rich countries or other global actors such as multinational corporations, institutions, and influential people.
In the face of such enormous external influence, the governments of poor nations and their people are often powerless. As a result, in the global context, a few get wealthy while the majority struggle.
These next few articles and sections explore various poverty issues in more depth:
13 articles on “Causes of Poverty” and 6 related issues:
Poverty Facts and Stats
Last updated Monday, September 20, 2010.
Most of humanity lives on just a few dollars a day. Whether you live in the wealthiest nations in the world or the poorest, you will see high levels of inequality.
The poorest people will also have less access to health, education and other services. Problems of hunger, malnutrition and disease afflict the poorest in society. The poorest are also typically marginalized from society and have little representation or voice in public and political debates, making it even harder to escape poverty.
By contrast, the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to benefit from economic or political policies. The amount the world spends on military, financial bailouts and other areas that benefit the wealthy, compared to the amount spent to address the daily crisis of poverty and related problems are often staggering.
Some facts and figures on poverty presented in this page are eye-openers, to say the least.
Read “Poverty Facts and Stats” to learn more.
Structural Adjustment—a Major Cause of Poverty
Last updated Sunday, November 28, 2010.
Cutbacks in health, education and other vital social services around the world have resulted from structural adjustment policies prescribed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank as conditions for loans and repayment. In addition, developing nation governments are required to open their economies to compete with each other and with more powerful and established industrialized nations. To attract investment, poor countries enter a spiraling race to the bottom to see who can provide lower standards, reduced wages and cheaper resources. This has increased poverty and inequality for most people. It also forms a backbone to what we today call globalization. As a result, it maintains the historic unequal rules of trade.
Read “Structural Adjustment—a Major Cause of Poverty” to learn more.
Poverty Around The World
Last updated Sunday, January 02, 2011.
Around the world, in rich or poor nations, poverty has always been present.
In most nations today, inequality—the gap between the rich and the poor—is quite high and often widening.
The causes are numerous, including a lack of individual responsibility, bad government policy, exploitation by people and businesses with power and influence, or some combination of these and other factors.
Many feel that high levels of inequality will affect social cohesion and lead to problems such as increasing crime and violence.
Inequality is often a measure of relative poverty. Absolute poverty, however, is also a concern. World Bank figures for world poverty reveals a higher number of people live in poverty than previously thought.
For example, the new poverty line is defined as living on the equivalent of $1.25 a day. With that measure based on latest data available (2005), 1.4 billion people live on or below that line.
Furthermore, almost half the world—over three billion people—live on less than $2.50 a day and at least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day:
Read “Poverty Around The World” to learn more.
Today, over 22,000 children died around the world
Last updated Monday, September 20, 2010.
Images © UNICEF
Over 22,000 children die every day around the world.
That is equivalent to:
• 1 child dying every 4 seconds
• 15 children dying every minute
• A 2010 Haiti earthquake occurring almost every 10 days
• A 2004 Asian Tsunami occurring almost every 10 days
• An Iraq-scale death toll every 18–43 days
• Just under 8.1 million children dying every year
• Some 88 million children dying between 2000 and 2009
The silent killers are poverty, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes. Despite the scale of this daily/ongoing catastrophe, it rarely manages to achieve, much less sustain, prime-time, headline coverage.
Read “Today, over 22,000 children died around the world” to learn more.
World Hunger and Poverty
Last updated Sunday, August 22, 2010.
Meaningful long-term alleviation of hunger is rooted in the alleviation of poverty, as poverty leads to hunger. World hunger is a terrible symptom of world poverty. If efforts are only directed at providing food, or improving food production or distribution, then the structural root causes that create hunger, poverty and dependency would still remain.
While resources and energies are deployed to relieve hunger through technical measures such as improving agriculture, and as important as these are, inter-related issues such as poverty means that political solutions are likely required as well for meaningful and long term hunger alleviation.
Read “World Hunger and Poverty” to learn more.
Food Dumping [Aid] Maintains Poverty
Last updated Monday, December 10, 2007.
Food aid (when not for emergency relief) can actually be very destructive on the economy of the recipient nation and contribute to more hunger and poverty in the long term. Free, subsidized, or cheap food, below market prices undercuts local farmers, who cannot compete and are driven out of jobs and into poverty, further slanting the market share of the larger producers such as those from the US and Europe. Many poor nations are dependent on farming, and so such food aid amounts to food dumping. In the past few decades, more powerful nations have used this as a foreign policy tool for dominance rather than for real aid.
Read “Food Dumping [Aid] Maintains Poverty” to learn more.
Food and Agriculture Issues
Last updated Sunday, November 21, 2010.
Food and agriculture goes to the heart of our civilizations. Religions, cultures and even modern civilization have food and agriculture at their core. For an issue that goes to the heart of humanity it also has its ugly side.
This issue explores topics ranging from the global food crisis of 2008, to issues of food aid, world hunger, food dumping and wasteful agriculture such as growing tobacco, sugar, beef, and more.
Read “Food and Agriculture Issues” to learn more.
Trade, Economy, & Related Issues
Last updated Sunday, January 02, 2011.
Read “Trade, Economy, & Related Issues” to learn more.
Last updated Sunday, November 07, 2010.
We often hear leaders from rich countries telling poor countries that aid and loans will only be given when they show they are stamping out corruption. While that definitely needs to happen, the rich countries themselves are often active in the largest forms of corruption in those poor countries, and many economic policies they prescribe have exacerbated
the problem. Corruption in developing countries definitely must be high on the priority lists, but so too must it be on the priority lists of rich countries.
Read “Corruption” to learn more.
Foreign Aid for Development Assistance
Last updated Sunday, April 25, 2010.
In 1970, the world’s rich countries agreed to give 0.7% of their gross national income as official international development aid, annually.
Since that time, billions have certainly been given each year, but rarely have the rich nations actually met their promised target.
For example, the US is often the largest donor in dollar terms, but ranks amongst the lowest in terms of meeting the stated 0.7% target.
Furthermore, aid has often come with a price of its own for the developing nations. Common criticisms, for many years, of foreign aid, have included the following:
• Aid is often wasted on conditions that the recipient must use overpriced goods and services from donor countries
• Most aid does not actually go to the poorest who would need it the most
• Aid amounts are dwarfed by rich country protectionism that denies market access for poor country products while rich nations use aid as a lever to open poor country markets to their products
• Large projects or massive grand strategies often fail to help the vulnerable; money can often be embezzled away.