Article in PDF (Download)
How Many Children Will Die of Hunger in 2015? – Mark Ulyseas
Decades ago when I worked for a short time at a charity I came face to face with death in all its gory details. The smell. The Sight. The hopelessness of existence. Hunger was all pervasive. It ate into the soul.
Today I watch half naked, filthy children roaming the streets and railways stations scavenging for food. Eating stale and sometimes rotting leftovers from hotels, restaurants and weddings thrown on the roadside. Often these children have to compete with dogs, rats and cows. It is an existence that reflects the disturbing callousness of humanity.
This is a replay across countries even though there is enough food in the world to feed everyone.
So why do children die of hunger?
It is claimed that around 3 million children die of hunger every year. It is claimed that in every minute of every day, four children die of hunger.
A little soul dies every 15 seconds.
In an age of over indulgence where obesity is now a recognised health issue, 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. LINK
Here are highlights from a report by Institution of Mechanical Engineers LINK
Major supermarkets, in meeting consumer expectations, will often reject entire crops of perfectly edible fruit and vegetables at the farm because they do not meet exacting marketing standards for their physical characteristics, such as size and appearance. For example, up to 30% of the UK’s vegetable crop is never harvested as a result of such practices. Globally, retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste annually in this way.
Of the produce that does appear in the supermarket, commonly used sales promotions frequently encourage customers to purchase excessive quantities which, in the case of perishable foodstuffs, inevitably generate wastage in the home. Overall between 30% and 50% of what has been bought in developed countries is thrown away by the purchaser.
In less-developed countries, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia, wastage tends to occur primarily at the farmer-producer end of the supply chain. Inefficient harvesting, inadequate local transportation and poor infrastructure mean that produce is frequently handled inappropriately and stored under unsuitable farm site conditions.
As much as half of all the food produced in the world – equivalent to 2bn tonnes – ends up as waste every year
In the UK as much as 30% of vegetable crops are not harvested due to their failure to meet retailers’ exacting standards on physical appearance, while up to half of the food that is bought in Europe and the US is thrown away by consumers.
Asit K Biswas and Cecilia Tortajada on how India must tackle food waste LINK
What accounts for India’s chronic food insecurity? Farm output has been setting new records in recent years, having increased output from 208 million tons in 2005-2006 to an estimated 263 million tons in 2013-2014. India needs 225-230 million tons of food per year; so, even accounting for recent population growth, food production is clearly not the main issue.
The most significant factor – one that policymakers have long ignored – is that a high proportion of the food that India produces never reaches consumers. Sharad Pawar, a former agriculture minister, has noted that food worth $8.3 billion, or nearly 40% of the total value of annual production, is wasted.
It is not only perishable food that is squandered. An estimated 21 million tons of wheat – equivalent to Australia’s entire annual crop – rots or is eaten by insects, owing to inadequate storage and poor management at the government-run Food Corporation of India (FCI). Food-price inflation since 2008-2009 has been consistently above 10%, (except for 2010-2011, when it was “only” 6.2%); the poor, whose grocery bills typically account for 31% of the household budget, have suffered the most.
One-quarter of the world’s undernourished people live in India, more than in all of Sub-Saharan Africa.
In India hunger kills 6,000 Indian kids every day. LINK
Some years back, a keynote speaker at the International Famine Centre at Cork, Ireland, detailed how maize was loaded on ships bound for Britain at the height of the great Irish potato famine that killed some 1.5 million people more than 150 years ago. He paused and then lamented: “I wonder what kind of people lived at that time who were not even remotely offended at the sight of millions dying of hunger in the same village where the ships were being loaded.” LINK
A hundred years later, the same class of people were largely responsible for the great Bengal Famine in 1943, in which an estimated 1.5 million to 3 million people perished. As Nobel laureate Amartya Sen explains in his now well-known theory of entitlements, the Bengal famine was not the result of a drastic slump in food production but because the colonial masters had diverted food for other commercial purposes. And if you are wondering whether the same evil class of the elite decision-makers has perished with the collapse of the erstwhile colonies, hold your breath. LINK
In developed countries millions of tons of food are thrown away or simply not harvested for reasons: Colour or size of the fruit or vegetable is not right. Excess food grains that cannot be sold as this would bring down ‘secured prevalent market’ prices. Milk, milk products that do not meet specifications but are perfectly edible. Of the millions of tons that is wasted in America each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 96 percent ends up in landfills. LINK
One billion people are hungry. Millions of children die of hunger every year while the world discards nearly US$2 billion worth of fresh produce, annually.
This is an ongoing silent genocide.
I shall leave you with these words from Mother Teresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one”.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om
01 January 2015