Where Hunger Is Still a Problem
The United Nations has described hunger as "the world's greatest solvable problem." And the situation has improved massively in the last few decades. The ambitious target now is to end hunger by 2030. This is one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015. SPIEGEL ONLINE is taking a closer look at these goals in the series Expedition BeyondTomorrow.
You can find out where food prices have climbed, where food shortages are ocurring and what is being done to put an end to hunger in our interactive quiz:
There are many reasons for hunger in the world. Let's take a closer look at three of them:
1. War and Conflict
Hunger is frequently a consequence of armed conflict. Both ongoing conflicts and those that have been ended for years can result in food becoming unaffordable. According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) compiled by the German aid organization Welthungerhilfe, the countries with the worst scores are states where civil war has raged or is still raging. The GHI takes into account general levels of malnutrition in a country, but also emaciation, stunted growth and child mortality rates.
According to the GHI's research, the situation is most dire in Central African Republic, where the predominantly Muslim Séléka rebel group toppled the Christian president, François Bozizé, in 2013. Since then, militia violence has continued, with thousands of people killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee. Supply chains have been destroyed and in many parts of the country, the situation is too dangerous for aid organizations. Many people in Central African Republic suffer from malnutrition because they eat just one meal a day.
Where Hunger Is Most Severe
according to the Global Hunger Index
|Central African Republic||46.1|
Source: Welthungerhilfe, FAO, Concern Worldwide (as of 2016)
Armed conflict is also a contributing factor in hunger levels in Chad, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Afghanistan and Niger. The GHI cannot be calculated for some countries, such as South Sudan, due to a lack of data. And the situation there is devastating. Wracked by civil war, South Sudan is witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis Africa has seen in a long time. The UN World Food Program is supplying hundreds of thousands of displaced people from South Sudan with food, including by airdrop. (Read our multimedia story on efforts to feed the hungry in South Sudan.)
2. Climate Change and Natural Disasters
In Haiti, by contrast, political turmoil combined with the devastation wreaked by hurricanes and the 2010 earthquake are contributing to hunger. The country's infrastructure has been destroyed and farmland is unusable. Meanwhile, environmental influences have also resulted in acute hunger in East Africa in recent years. Droughts in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, for example, have led to severe crop shortfalls, affecting primarily farming families that live off their own crops.
Climate change will likely result in an increase in droughts and natural disasters. Aid organizations fear that advances made in tackling hunger in recent decades will be reversed, with fertile farmland drying out and harvests destroyed by flooding and storms. According to climate researchers, the regions that will be most affected are those where hunger is already an acute problem - sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South America.
3. High Food Prices
Food prices on world markets fluctuate constantly. Recent years have seen some especially dramatic swings, with prices of grain and dairy products rocketing upwards in 2007 and 2008, and again in 2010 and 2011. Process of grain and milk went up by an average of 80 percent after 2000, only returning to normal in 2016. The Food Price Index compiled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) illustrates these fluctuations.
Economists disagree about the immediate causes of food price explosions. On the one hand, they point to medium and longterm factors, such as the growing global population, harvest shortfalls due to climate change and the fact that farmland previously used for edible crops is increasingly used to grow crops for biofuel production. On the other hand, many aid organizations as well as financial experts believe that commodities speculation is partly to blame.
The more dependent a country is on imports, the more fluctuations on world markets affect local food prices. Circumstances in the countries are also contributing factors. Damaged infrastructure and poor harvests in the wake of droughts can lead not just to food shortages but also an increase in food prices. The consequence is that parts of the population can no longer afford to eat, or can only afford a reduced diet that fails to provide them with the nutrients they need. This, too, is a form of hunger.
In order to establish how much food costs in countries around the world, the FAO compares food prices with other commodities necessary for daily life. Food in Europe and North America is particularly cheap. Find out in which countries food is expensive in our interactive quiz on hunger, which you can find above.