The Number of Poor and Hungry Individuals Has Lessened, but…

Published: Sep 16, 2014 Reading time: 4 minutes
The Number of Poor and Hungry Individuals Has Lessened, but…
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Some countries have successfully reached their first Development goal, others do not have the ability to lower extreme poverty and hunger.

The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day, and amount of malnourished children until the age of five and population living under the minimum wage are some of the factors that go into defining levels of poverty. With these facts, the UN measures its successes and calls in the first Development goal. Within it, the organisation took it upon itself to lower extreme hunger and poverty worldwide by fifty percent.

In the last report, the UN has reported that almost half the population of developed countries lived in poverty in 1990. Twenty years later the number of impoverished people lowered to 22%. Today, the worst situation are found in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The largest number of impoverished people live in India, China and Nigeria, or the states with the largest populations in their respective regions. A high amount of poverty is also shown by small states (Bangladesh) and countries hit by instability or conflict (Democratic Republic of the Congo and both Sudans). The international community is mildly optimistic at the moment and mentions that meeting the goal of lowering hunger and getting rid of poverty is possible, albeit it is necessary to act immediately. It is unknown, whether those goals can be met in time, as it has not happened in the new millenium.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO), more than sixty states have reached or by the end of the year 2015 will reach these set goals. This is especially true in Latin American countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile and eastern and southeastern Asian countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Sixteen countries on the other hand have not advanced, in some cases the situation even worsened. Nine of these countries are found in Africa (Botswana, Zambia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Guinea Bissau), long term problems can also be found in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Iraq or Uzbekistan.

However, it has to be mentioned that fewer developed countries have exact statistics, therefore various institutions can provide contradictory reports. We also cannot forget that even concrete numbers and percentages have to be put into context. This example is shown by sub-Saharan Africa. Considering its recent population increases, the given percentage of malnourishment lowers, but in reality the real amount of malnourished Africans grows slowly. In 1990, over 173 million people were suffering, according to statistics of the FAO – or 32.7%, in 2011 to 2013 this increased to nearly 223 million, which represented “only” 24.8% of the sub-Saharan population.

Political Missteps

Development goal number one represents fulfilling the most basic human needs. Hunger going hand in hand with poverty does not only mean that 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty, every eighth person sleeps with an empty stomach and every fourth child is chronically malnourished. It also means huge economic and social losses. People weakened by hunger cannot work, are more susceptible to various diseases, and malnourished mothers cannot provide everything necessary for the healthy development of their children. In extreme cases, this leads to halting of growth and such children are then physically and intellectually disabled for the rest of their lives, because nutrition in the first thousand days from birth is a key factor in everyone’s lives.

The causes of why states are losing the battle with poverty and hunger are several. Most affected are small food producers, because agriculture was considered a marginal sector for a long time, which did not receive the attention required. Another is the incompetency of ensuring equal access to sources and basic services or emergency social networks to the endangered population. However, governments also accept bad political solutions, which have the opposite effect, than which was intended. This is shown well by many investment projects for example, which instead of supporting local produce of food lead to so called land grabs. Effectivity of development projects from developed countries is also doubtful, which do not coordinate their actions with others.

Relays for SDGs

Calls for development goals have surely been steps in the right direction, but it would be naive to think that this is considered a panacea project. Even if the first development goal was reached by all countries, which is not likely, there would still be many people globally living in unfathomable conditions. Experts agree however, that hunger and poverty have to remain a priority in new, realistic goals after 2015, because they represent the basic and fundamental obstacle to development of every establishment. And not only in the poorest regions.

Autor: Dagmar Milerová Prášková