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60% Of The Population In Developing Countries Lack Safety Nets

By Countercurrents.org

17 October, 2012

Sixty percent of people in developing countries lack safety nets. It’s 80 percent in the poorest countries[1]. Moreover, one in eight, suffered from chronic undernourishment. And, climate change and volatile food prices make the world’s poorest ever more vulnerable to hunger while hunger and conflict are more closely related than ever before.

“Fully 60 percent of people in developing countries lack safety nets […] rising to as many as 80 percent in the poorest countries,” noted WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin at a key meeting on food security in Rome.

A new combination of “safety net” programs are needed to address trends like climate change and volatile food prices that threaten to undermine progress made against hunger, said Cousin.

Hunger and conflict are more closely related than ever before, she noted in her address at the 39th Committee on World Food Security.

“In our world, too many still struggle to find their next meal. Social protection and safety net programs enable the most vulnerable, particularly women and children, to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty," said Cousin. "These programs provide a cushion that is otherwise unavailable and build resilience against economic and environmental shocks."

Climate change has led to more frequent and intense natural hazards. And high food prices continue to challenge the ability of the poorest populations to provide for them.

A similar dismal fact came out: Nearly 870 million people, one in eight, suffered from chronic undernourishment over the last two years is, experts say[2].

“[O]ne person in every eight goes hungry, and that is unacceptable,” FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva told reporters at the FAO headquarters on October 16, 2012. “To the FAO the only acceptable number with hunger is zero.”

The situation is particularly bad in Africa, where the number of hungry has grown in the last twenty years from 175 to 239 million. In sub-Saharan Africa, the modest progress achieved in recent years was reversed in 2007, with hunger rising two percent annually since then.

Developed regions also saw the number of hungry rise from 13 million to 16 million between 2004 and 2012.

The FAO estimates that childhood malnutrition causes the deaths of more than 2.5 million children every year. Decreased food consumption can reduce children’s intake of key nutrients during the first thousand days of life, starting from conception.

According to the IPS report, the number of chronically hungry people has declined by 130 million since 1990, falling from around one billion people to 868 million. The vast majority of these people, 852 million, live in developing countries, which means that 15 percent of the developing world suffers from hunger, while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries.

Meanwhile, the proportion of the global population that is classified as ‘undernourished’ dropped from 18.6 percent in 1990 to the current level of 12.5 percent, and from 23.2 percent to 14.9 percent in developing countries.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 (SOFI), jointly released by the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the WFP, suggests that if “appropriate actions” are taken to feed the hungry and reverse the slowdown of 2007-2008, the goal of halving the number of hungry people in the developing world by 2015 is still attainable.

“If the average annual hunger reduction of the past 20 years continues through to 2015, the percentage of undernourishment in developing countries (will) reach 12.5 percent – still above the MDG target of 11.6 percent, but much closer to it than previously estimated,” the report says.

Despite population growth, the prevalence of undernourishment in Asia and the Pacific decreased from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent, largely due to socio-economic progress in many countries in the region.

Latin America and the Caribbean also made progress, going from 65 million hungry people to 49 million between 1990 and 2012, though the rate of progress has slowed recently.

The new methodology does not capture the short-term effects of food price surges and other economic shocks but focuses exclusively on the number of chronically hungry people worldwide.

Valerie Guarnieri, WFP’s head of program, told IPS: “Inadequate nutrition during that phase (could cause) irreversible consequences to child growth and development. If we can ensure that a pregnant mother and a child up until the age of two have access to that adequate nutrition then the development of the brain is stimulated, the growth of the child is stimulated (and) they will have the best opportunity to participate and learn in school.

“And that even contributes to higher income and growth for themselves and their families as they progress through life,” she added.

The report also stresses the link between agricultural growth involving small farmers and malnutrition reduction in poor countries. “There is huge potential to tackle poverty through smart agricultural growth,” Carlos Seré, chief development strategist of IFAD, told IPS. “The starting point has to be an inclusive growth model, and a very efficient and sustainable approach is required.”

Agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, is reported to be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it generates employment for the poor.

While indicating progress, the UN data elicited skeptical responses.

According to Marco de Ponte, secretary general of ActionAid, Italy, the reported decrease in the number of hungry people is mainly due to the fact that the global food price crisis had less of an impact on countries like China, India and Indonesia than was previously calculated.

“This means that the (new) data does not result from a stronger political commitment by governments (to reduce hunger),” he told IPS.


[1] World Food Programme, “Better Tools Needed To Protect Poor From Hunger”, Oct. 16, 2012, https://www.wfp.org/stories/better-tools-needed-protect-poor-hunger

[2] IPS, Sabina Zaccaro, “When it Comes to Hunger, Zero is the Only Acceptable Number”, Rome, Oct. 9, 2012, http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/10/when-it-comes-to-hunger-zero-is-the-only-acceptable-number/




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