Module 3: Fighting Hunger

Compared to the cost of living in the United States, the cost of eradicating hunger is minimal. For example, it costs just $10 USD to feed a boy in Kenya’s refugee camps for 3 weeks – this is less than the cost of lipstick in Manhattan.(1) It costs only $50 USD to feed a school-aged girl for an entire year in many developing nations.(2) It costs only 20 cents to feed one child a nutrient-rich serving of Plumpy’Sup®, a nutritional food supplement.(3) In 2003, the FAO estimated that an additional $24 billion in public funding each year would be needed to reach the goal of halving global hunger by 2015 (with inflation, the figure becomes $36 billion in 2008 dollars).(4)

Short-Term Efforts

The World Food Programme (WFP) plays a major role in fighting global hunger. The WFP not only works to alleviate the symptoms of acute malnutrition and hunger, but also focuses on preventing hunger early on, thereby tackling the cycle of poverty and curbing hunger at its roots. The WFP has implemented projects such as providing school meals, giving food to people who learn particular skills (part of the Food for Assets and Food for Training programs), feeding patients with HIV/AIDS, connecting farmers to secure markets (part of a project called Purchase for Progress), and helping women gain access to food.

Some WFP projects encourage community members to work on or learn about programs that benefit the community. The school meals project provides nutritious meals to children who attend school. Since the poor often cannot provide food for their children at home, the promise of one healthy school meal per day encourages parents to send their children to school. This has been shown to be true in almost all nations in north and central Africa (including, but not limited to, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Somalia), Haiti, Columbia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, and other countries shown in the map below. Not only do children concentrate better when they are well nourished, but they also receive an education, the first step in ending the cycle of poverty. In some parts of the world, a school meal program doubles primary school enrollment in just one year.(5) The Food for Assets program provides food for people who learn new skills that increase their community’s food security, while simultaneously building vital infrastructure.

WFP Assisted School Feeding Beneficiaries in 2010(6)

Description: http://documents.wfp.org/stellent/groups/public/documents/communications/wfp245558.png   

These programs are critical in supporting communities. The WFP provides food to patients with HIV/AIDS, for instance, because they typically require more nutrients. HIV can reduce a person’s work productivity, consequently decreasing food security. Food insecurity can lead patients with HIV to forgo treatment and engage in high-risk forms of employment, such as prostitution, to earn money for food. This, in turn, increases the risk of HIV transmission. The Purchase for Progress program invests in local farmers by buying their crops and connecting them with partners around the world. Finally, the WFP focuses on providing women with proper nutrition, not only because women are usually more afflicted by hunger (due to gender inequality), but also because they make up the bulk of agricultural labor, and play a key role in a family’s food security. Women make up 80% of the farming workforce in Africa and 60% of the farmers in Asia.(7) Furthermore, studies have shown that income in the hands of women is more likely to go towards feeding their children, rather than towards themselves. In Brazil, a mother who earns income is able to increase the survival probability of each of her children by 20%.

Recent efforts have also focused on community-based management of malnutrition. Community members can treat children suffering from moderate to severe acute malnutrition, (without hospitalization) through ready-to-use supplementary foods (RUSF) and ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF). Plumpy’Nut®, one form of RUTF, is a peanut-based paste mixture that is high in minerals, vitamins, energy, and protein, and was developed to target children with severe acute malnutrition. Plumpy’Nut® requires no preparation—it does not need refrigeration, cooking, or water. Plumpy'Sup® is a similar product, aimed at those suffering from moderate acute malnutrition.

Long-Term Solutions

Inevitably, hunger will only be eradicated once other issues, primarily poverty, are addressed. Though hunger and poverty are interconnected, international efforts must begin somewhere, and reducing poverty is a natural first goal. As Oxfam published in a briefing, “Without comprehensive reforms of national and global policies on food, agriculture, trade and climate change, no plan to fight hunger – however ambitious – will succeed.”(8)  

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Footnotes

(1) WFP. "Hunger Price Tags." www.wfp.org. World Food Programme, 18 May 2012. Web. 29 May 2012.

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Oxfam International. Halving Hunger: Still Possible? By Arantxa Guereña, Luca Chinotti, Sonia Goicoechea, Jean-Denis Crola, and Eric Hazard. Oxfam Briefing Paper, 2010. Print.

(5) "Fighting Hunger Worldwide." www.wfp.org. World Food Programme. Web. 17 May 2012.

(6)WFP Assisted School Feeding Beneficiaries in 2010. Digital image. www.wfp.org. World Food Programme, 2010. Web. 30 May 2012.

(7) "Fighting Hunger Worldwide." www.wfp.org. World Food Programme. Web. 17 May 2012.

(8) Oxfam International. Halving Hunger: Still Possible? By Arantxa Guereña, Luca Chinotti, Sonia Goicoechea, Jean-Denis Crola, and Eric Hazard. Oxfam Briefing Paper, 2010. Print.