Letters

The State of Global Hunger

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Science  19 Dec 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5909, pp. 1788-1789
DOI: 10.1126/science.322.5909.1788b

With the passing of another world day Against Hunger (on 30 October), it is time to take stock of the state of global hunger. Sadly, Millennium goals are still far from being reached, and over 800 million people suffer from malnutrition in the world. The latest core health indicators from the World Health Organization show that many countries still have high rates of chronic malnutrition (>30%) and under-five mortality (>20%) (1). Humanitarian aid is insufficient and is hindered even more by wars, political instability, dictatorships, and corruption.

There are two major obstacles to collecting food aid from developed countries. One is cost: World Food Programme activities are extremely expensive. The other is motivation: People only think to donate during emergencies such as wars and tsunamis, when in fact aid is needed at all times.

I have two suggestions that may help us move in the right direction. First, to avoid increases in the price of basic food, the Food and Agriculture Organization should buy low-cost arable lands for agriculture production and use the food grown to help populations suffering from hunger. Second, to provide aid more consistently, Western countries that produce surpluses should send extra food to the World Food Programme for distribution. For instance, in Spain in 2007 there were thousands of tons of surplus oranges that were not harvested (24). It is wrong to limit agricultural productivity when there are millions of people dying of hunger in other countries.

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