From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Number of world's hungry estimated at 842 million

Date Thu, 15 Apr 2004 11:48:39 -0500

Note #8196 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

April 15, 2004

Number of world's hungry estimated at 842 million

Everyone could eat, researchers say, if leaders had the political will

by Evan Silverstein

LOUISVILLE  - Although political leaders have the means to reverse the trend,
world hunger is increasing, with an estimated 842 million people going to bed
hungry every night, according to a report issued April 14 by the Bread for
the World Institute.

In its 14th annual report on global hunger, Are We on Track to End Hunger?,
the institute says the international community is losing ground in efforts to
reach goals set in the mid-1990s to reduce hunger by half in the United
States by 2010 and globally by 2015.

"We know what needs to be done to turn the corner in the battle against
hunger," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World
Institute, a non-profit anti-hunger organization. "The problem is not a lack
of food. Hunger is a political problem, and people need to demand change from
their elected officials."

The institute, in Washington, DC, studies hunger and development issues and
seeks justice for the poor. It is a partner of the Christian anti-hunger
group, Bread For the World.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) Hunger Program is one of the sponsors of the
report, which assesses hunger in this country and abroad, outlines current
policy, and explores what has gone wrong in the effort to relieve hunger and
how to get back on track.

The institute contends that the world community "knows what to do" to spur
economic growth, especially in rural development and agriculture, and to help
hungry people feed their families and increase their incomes.

"But knowing what needs to be done is different from doing it," the report
says, adding that the United States must play a vital role in the battle
against global hunger.

Between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s the proportion of hungry people in
developing countries dropped from about one-third to one-sixth. In the first
half of the 1990s, the number of people suffering from hunger was reduced by
37 million. In the past decade, the number of hungry declined by 80 million
in 19 countries.

Since then, however, the sluggish global economy, war, natural disasters and
dwindling political will have put the issue of world hunger on the back
burner for many governments, and the number of people experiencing hunger is
increasing by 5 million per year, according to Are We on Track to End Hunger?

In 2002, nearly 35 million people in the United States, including 13 million
children, lived in homes not consistently able to put food on the table. The
report contends that this is incomprehensible at a time when the United
States, and arguably the world, are wealthier than ever. The world produces
enough food for everyone, it says, but many go unfed.

"It's a tremendous disappointment that, after years of seeing the number of
hungry people in the world slowly decline, in the last year it has actually
begun to grow," said the Rev. Gary Cook, coordinator of the Presbyterian
Hunger Program. ... Within the last couple of years we've begun to lose
ground, because we've lost the will to make it a top priority."

The international community and the United States have adopted a new
framework for development programs that promise to go past temporary fixes to
more permanent solutions.

"It's been good to see the administration expressing its commitment to
provide new development assistance that would help us work toward reducing
those (hunger) numbers again," Cook said. "But it's important that all of us
make sure that the Congress and the administration follow through on those
promises by actually allocating the money to make it happen."

According to the institute, a successful anti-hunger strategy must combine
long-term, sustained investment in reducing poverty with relief of the
immediate food and nutritional needs of the hungry. If the current "business
as usual" attitude persists, the report says, the number of people
experiencing hunger won't be sliced in half before 2050.

Cutting that number in half by 2015 - from about 800 million to 400 million -
was one of the goals announced during the World Food Summit of 1996. Soon
thereafter, U.S. leaders vowed to cut domestic hunger in half by 2010,
reducing the number of people in homes at risk of hunger from 30.4 million to
about 15.2 million, 1.26 million more than in 2001. Now, it says, the number
is 35 million.

According to the report, some countries still face acute food shortages, but
many more struggle to provide jobs to people so they can earn enough to feed
their families.

Reducing domestic hunger

The report says polls have found that likely svoters in the U.S. favor
candidates who commit themselves to the fight against hunger. A resounding 94
percent of respondents in one poll said they thought it was important to pay
forfund anti-hunger programs in the United States.S., even in times of budget
 deficits and economic hardshipally tough times.

	It says innovative programs in Oregon have increaseding its food
stamp participation rate from 14 per cent of those eligible to in two years
84 per cent in two years. The hunger rate in Oregon declined in 2002 despite
increasing poverty and higher housing costs.

In the United States.S., an array of nutrition programs is available to help
peoplethose who struggle with hunger, but nearly half receive no assistance
from the three largest anti-hunger programs: food stamps, school lunches and
the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

U.S. efforts to feed its poor must be expanded, it says, and additional money
has to be allocated for the purpose.

Some officials have said churches and charitable organizations should take on
more of the burden of fighting hunger, but Bread for the World Institute says
that, while food banks and soup kitchens are stretched beyond their means.

The institute says private donations to such initiatives total $2 billion to
$4 billion a year, while the $44 billion spent on federal programs still
leaves too many people behind.

"Clearly, if the United States.S. is to meet its goal of cutting hunger in
half by 2010, our nutrition programs must be retooled and reformed to not
only modernize and strengthen the current initiatives, but also to extend
their reach to those people falling through the cracks," "Beckmann said. "It
is up to our political leaders to make this happen."

Are We on Track to End Hunger urges the U.S. government to pursue four
specific reforms domestically: increase participation in federal assistance
programs; make the programs more cost-efficient while guarding their
integrity; meet participants' nutritional needs in addition to providing more
food; and integrate the programs better with each other and with successful
community-based efforts.

The long-term answer, the report says, is supporting the efforts of poor
people to help themselves by providing jobs, education and training so that
they can earn enough to buy the food they need.

Reducing global hunger

The report says a similar integrated approach is needed to address
international hunger and poverty - a combination of efforts to improve
agricultural productivity with rural-development programs emphasizing
improvements in health, education and infrastructure and addressing the needs
of women and small-scale farmers. It says reducing rural hunger and poverty
would also relieve hunger and poverty in cities.

Despite the recent setbacks, it says, much can be accomplished if political
leaders move hunger and poverty issues to the top of their political agendas.

In the developing world, the report says, providing food in emergency
situations is vital, but a development agenda designed to reduce hunger will
do more to strengthen people and communities. It says such an agenda would
include: educational opportunities for girls (more than 100 million children
in the developing world, 60 million of them girls, have no access to basic
education); mosquito-net programs to prevent malaria; medications for people
with HIV/AIDS (and improvements in education and prevention measures); and
making efertilizers and drip irrigation available to farmers.

A sustained anti-hunger development strategy is only one component of an
effective partnership with poor countries, according to the report, which
says fair-trade policies and debt relief also are essential. Trade and debt
are also central.  It says, for example, that U.S. subsidies cost Mali $43
million cotton export income in 2001, while U.S. development assistance
totaled only $38 million that year; and that AlsoAfrican nations spend $14.5
billion each year on debt repayment while receiving $12.7 billion in aid.

The report is available in its entirety at the Bread for the World Web site, It also can be ordered through the Presbyterian Marketplace,
or by phone (toll-free) at (800) 524-2612.

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