According to the World Food Programme (WFP), approximately 925 million people in the world are undernourished today. That means that one out of seven people is not able to get sufficient food to lead a healthy and active life. This makes hunger be on the top of the list of risks to good health globally.
Effects of hunger as risks to health are much higher than those of “AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis all combined” (World Food Programme p. 1). Hunger refers to unavailability of food (World Hunger Education Service p. 1), but it is also taken to mean vulnerability to disease due to micronutrient deficiencies. Effects of hunger are adverse, crippling not only the individual but also becoming a burden to a developing world.
Food security is not a concern for the developing and the underdeveloped countries alone but it for the developed states, such as the United States. Statistics released in September 2011 indicate that in the year 2010, 14.5% of all households were food-insecure (that is one out of every seven households) with 5.4% of all the United States households having very low food security (World Hunger Education Service p. 1).
There are arguments that the United States shoulders the blame for world hunger as regards to its spending so much on defense purposes and military operations. For example, in Afghanistan and Iraq, such tactics caused extreme poverty in these countries. America should not be blamed alone for world hunger, but it is logical to argue that it takes some of the blame; many factors contribute to hunger.
Poverty being the principal cause calls for measures to be taken to address its eradication as an initiative to reduce world hunger. America being a superpower has a major role to play in world hunger level reduction as it has an edge on global economic matters and in how financial aid is allocated by financial bodies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to poor countries.
This paper considers America’s role in world hunger, how the country has increased it through poverty caused by its military operations, sanctions due to political interests and its influence in allocation of funds to political allies and “friendly states” rather than to poverty stricken countries.
World hunger is a result of many interrelated factors. America does play a major role in, but there are also a lot of factors that cannot be simply ignored when it comes to issues of world poverty. This paper argues America’s influence on world hunger, the roles it has played and other factors that have led to the current facts and figures as well as the place food aid takes in eradicating hunger.
Losses that are incurred due to food wastage result in gaps in the food supply chains and inadequate food storage facilities. The paper also examines that current food production is sufficient enough to feed the current world population and shows that this participation in export commodities is opposed to food producing agriculture.
Undemocratic economic and political policies conflicts because of poverty of stricken nations, and our attitude towards hunger are among other factors that maintain the status quo when it comes to addressing world hunger. Activities of the United States indicate a tendency to increase world hunger; it seems to give the perception that it is fond to bask in the glory of the world’s dependency on foreign aid, so that it can use the same as a manipulation to the realization of its foreign policies (Maddocks p. 23).
It is established that world hunger, as a risk to health, ranks greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis all combined, and statistics indicate that 800 million people in the world sleep on an empty stomach every day that is approximately one of nine people (Swanson para 1).
As such, measures to deal with hunger should be put in place. In the book “World hunger: 12 myths,” a story is told about a woman, Amanda Espinoza, who had six stillbirths and witnessed the death of five of her children before the age of one. This gives a whole new meaning to the word “hungry”; it means looking helplessly at those who are dear to you, but doom to die and having no choices and opportunities to help them (Lappe, Collins & Rosset pg 3).
World hunger can never be addressed through food aid. Poverty being the principal cause of world hunger should be treated adequately. If efforts at reducing the level of world hunger involve providing food aid, then the principal cause of hunger, which is poverty, would still remain. In most cases, foreign aid causes harm instead of helping to manage with this problem (Lappe, Collins & Rosset p 1).
While providing food aid as a temporary measure of elimination hunger, a long term solution of eradicating poverty should be embraced (Shah para 2). In the global economic system, there are two main measures that can be adopted by poor people to increase their income level. For example, due to trade, wages in rich economies tend to reduce because of availability of machinery, but in poor countries, they increase. Immigration to countries with labor deficit economies is also a response of people affected by poverty.
The structure of the United States economic system is based on the “free enterprise economy” approach where there is competition for employment, with most jobs being offered to the best qualified employee, thus joblessness affects mainly those who are under qualified.
Revolutions are attempts to transform the political and economic structures so as to conform to the needs of the poor. Thus, to understand the dynamics behind these revolutions, attention needs to be paid to the inequities between the rich and the poor that lead to anti-western ideologies, dealing with world hunger constructively (Nessan & Beckmann p 12).
The structure of the United States political system focuses more on concerns that are not fundamental to the people. For instance, the expenditure on military operations takes up half of the “US federal government discretionary expenditures” with expenses allocated to poverty alleviation (World Hunger Education Service p. 1). Joblessness and administration, to a greater extent, turning a blind eye to the issues of the poor play a major role at increasing poverty and growth of the level of world hunger.
The structures of political and economic systems are the underlying causes of poverty and hunger since control over resources is based on economic, political or military power. This power, in most cases, is possessed by the minority which may not have the interests of the poor at heart. The US economic crisis had a great impact on world poverty; many countries have participated in international markets making themselves more vulnerable to recessions in big economies.
It is noted that hunger also results from conflicts. Nevertheless, the UNHCR shows clearly that poverty is all the same the greatest cause. This is because the 2008 report showed that chronic hunger affected approximately 1 billion people compared to a smaller figure of 36 million who felt the effects of conflicts through displacement.
Democracy, as we know it, is accountability of the majority. Well structured democratic states are those in which the majority of the population contributes on the decisions that affect their interests. When leadership is accountable to the majority, then the state is said to be democratic. With the absence of democracy in the economic lives of the people, the majority will be made powerless on the issues that affect them most (Lappe, Collins & Rosset pg 4).
It is sad to say that the United States plays a major role in the institution of undemocratic systems of governments. After it seized Puerto Rico in 1898, sugar companies from the United States put up vast sugar plantations consequently engaging in the eviction of farmers. By the year 1925, 80% of the whole land was owned by 2% of the population, rendering a shocking 70% of the population landless.
With 70% being landless, many individuals were “out of work”, so cheap labor became available. Women were considered docile and subject to “loss- due to pregnancy”. This resulted in an extensive sterilization campaign funded by the United States government (Lappe, Collins & Rosset p. 37).
Globally, the food grown is enough to “provide over 2800 calories per day to every man, woman and child” (The Rational Radical para 4) .This is sufficient to make us all obese, but in most countries, especially, in the third world countries, small scale farmers are forced to be hungry as most of the fertile lands are used to grow export crops by multinational corporations.
The United States, by creating a demand for these export crops, becomes a player in this injustice to the poor (The Rational Radical para 5-7). Hunger related issues are many and inter-related to economics and other poverty causing factors.
These include among others diversion of the usage of land from food productive agriculture to export oriented use (Shah para 3). It is unbearable to note that a nation in the sub-Saharan Africa that has 213 million severely malnourished people still exports food (Lappe, Collins & Rosset p. 10).
In dealing with world hunger, we perceive that it has an effect on the kind of solutions presented to solve it. If the problem is considered in terms of numbers, then it implies that data should be also used as a part of the solution. A great amount of people die because of hunger annually or go to bed without food every night.
Hunger makes it clear that coping with human emotions is the most painful task. Hunger means powerlessness at its extreme (Lappe, Collins & Rosset p 3). World hunger is not a result of failure in food production, but ineffective supply of food to starve stricken populations. People do not go hungry because food is scarce but rather because of insufficient income to afford it.
World hunger is seen as a result of global trade together with economic policies that cause extreme poverty. For many years, food production is still connected with the growing populations. Thus, in some cases, hunger will be witnessed in economies producing food surpluses because people cannot afford food. Hunger is caused by poverty. Though it may be pointed that this problem is an economic issue as well as political one which in the long run becomes an economic issue (Shah para 3).
40% of the food produced is wasted in post-harvest losses in India. This is more pronounced in vegetables. These wastages can be reduced by improved food processing industries, proper infrastructure and reducing or eliminating gaps in supply. Food wastage technically happens when retailers and mostly consumers throw edible foodstuffs as trash. Food losses are realized as a result of underdeveloped infrastructure, poor food production mechanisms and underdeveloped technological advancement (Jasmuheen p. 3).
The Food and Agricultural Organization report on “global food losses and food waste” released on May 11, 2011 indicated that in Rome alone, approximately a third of food produced worldwide annually is lost or wasted i.e. that is 1.3 billion tones (FAO para 1). This is quite alarming considering the millions who die yearly due to starvation. It is also clear that up to 220m tons of food is wasted in rich economies.
This is in contrast to 230m tons that the sub-Saharan Africa manages to produce. The quantity of food lost and wasted annually was approximately equal to half of the global cereals crop (2.3 billion ton in 2009/2010) (FAO para 3). With these statistics, it is quiet illogical to shift blame on a single factor. Reduction of food wastages and losses, if implemented, can reduce world hunger adversely.
Even though the United States takes some credit for world hunger, it has made recognizable attempts at ending world starvation through financial aids. Establishment of the “Fighting world hunger: U.S food aid policy and the food for peace program” has helped in the disbursement of millions of dollars as financial aid and tons of food are provided as an aid annually.
Wealthy nations are quite selfish in development assistance, and, moreover, the extremely poor are seldom the sole beneficiaries when they offer foreign aid. In the year 2004, “the ratio of development assistance to gross national income was 0.17% far below the united nations target of 0.7%” (Bassett & Nelson pg 168) in order to witness the realization of the millennium development goals by 2015, rich nations have to be more committed to offering aid programs as means of improving long term developments like health and infrastructure.
This financial aid in the form of “foreign assistance programs” is, however, with ill motives as they are used as tools to the realization of foreign policies. It is argued that American foreign aid is used to maintain the United States leadership in the international scene. Anyway, this foreign economic assistance is not geared towards ending world hunger as it is realized that 15 countries received over half of the total U.S financial support in the 1990s.
Israel and Egypt alone took home more than a third of this financial aid. The 10 poorest countries in the world took only 5% of the total U.S financial foreign assistance in the year 1994. Food aid, with the exception of emergency relief, can encourage over-reliance of a country on food and financial aid, and thus more hunger and poverty.
Free or cheap food encourages laziness, as a result, the hardworking local farmers will not be able to market their produce, and thus they are driven into unemployment and poverty in the long run.
This was the case in Somalia when the civil war of 1991 broke out. Disruption of the transportation network threatened 4.5 million people with malnutrition disease. The U.S delayed relief until December 1992 when the people had witnessed the worst and were on their road to recovery.
Death rate was seen a drop from 300 to 70 a day. Harvesting had already started in the regions of Shebell river valley and Afgoye. Sorghum, corn and rice were available, but the U.S in its cunning nature poured into the foreign aid, dropping the prices of the harvests by 75%. Even with the fall in prices, it became quite difficult to sell the products.
Not even the United States could buy something, so it claimed that the mandate it was offered dictated that they could buy only from the U.S governments. This forced the farmers to abandon the farms and queue for handouts of foreign food aid (Lappe, Collins & Rosset p. 136). This type of food aid is usually termed as ‘tied aid’. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization encourages cash based food aid as opposed to “tied aid”.
Cash based food aid is advantageous as it allows developing countries to buy from local farmers with food surpluses, thus eliminating shipping costs and also encouraging hard work as well as reducing poverty rates. Thus, it becomes a development solution in the long run (Bassett & Nelson p 170).
Poverty eradication can be viewed as the best solution for ending world hunger. Dependency on foreign aid is destructive to a nation, and due to issues related to policy implementation, it may take too long for foreign aid to be received. Minimizing food losses and wastages and encouraging cash based food help are also other factors that are vital in the eradication of world hunger. Foreign aid should be given through an independent body like the United Nations.
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