The Moral Imperative The persistence of hunger in a world of plenty is immoral. In a world of 5 billion people, more than 1 billion are desperately poor and face food insecurity. 800 million are chronically malnourished. Every day, 35,000 children under age five (14 million a year) die of malnutrition and related preventable diseases. Millions more become blind, retarded or suffer other disabilities that impair functioning for lack of vitamins and minerals (micro-nutrients), robbing the human community of valuable gifts and talents. Hunger increases pressures that lead to a growing tide of refugees and migrants. Hunger and poverty are at the base of much political turmoil and armed conflict.
Progress Being Made Food security is a fundamental human right. Although still far from being generally accepted, significant progress is being made. Community and non-governmental organizations are implementing successful programs against hunger. A number of governments have adopted national policies addressing hunger, in some cases, especially in East Asia, cutting malnutrition in half in a single decade. Diseases caused by the hidden hunger of micronutrient deficiency are being dramatically reduced and could largely be eliminated by the year 2000. Early warning systems and humanitarian responses have virtually eliminated deaths by famine due to natural disasters such as drought, floods and earthquakes. Today’s famine is likely to be triggered by armed conflict and civil war.
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National and inter-governmental conferences on women, children, nutrition, population, social development and the environment indicate by their plans of action a growing moral consensus that preventable suffering will no longer be tolerated. Popular movements for democracy and equity testify to the grassroots character of the changes required. Strategies For Change Ending hunger is a credible and achievable goal. Increased funding needs to be re-directed to programs addressing the needs of poor people, especially rural and urban households at risk of food insecurity. Beginning with the Bellagio Declaration of 1989, major public statements to overcome hunger have focused on (1) eradicating vitamin and mineral deficiencies, (2) reducing malnutrition among women and young children, (3) diminishing hunger in the poorest households, and (4) eliminating deaths from famine.
Continued progress especially toward the first two goals can be achieved by improved communication, community organization and collaboration with local governments. In particular, this includes empowering poor communities, education for women and providing safety nets for vulnerable populations. Diminishing hunger in the poorest households requires first of all strong commitment by national governments to develop adequate infrastructure, increase agricultural productivity, minimize rural indebtedness, and implement land reform. Governments and the private sector should ensure that poor people are active participants in the economic life of their communities. Balance must be sought between economic growth and government regulation on behalf of poor people.
To secure timely and effective intervention in famines requires an unwavering commitment to civilian rights to food in armed conflicts and better coordination of international humanitarian responses. Wider Hunger Linkages Consumerism, unsustainable population increases, wastage, trade imbalances and other misguided private and public actions could worsen an already tragic situation. Since hunger is the worst manifestation of a complex set of political, economic and social problems, durable solutions require linkages with peoples’ movements for peace, justice, equity and sustainable development. To overcome hunger, we must all join together to create a world in which children and adults can thrive as well as survive
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