Hunger is much more than not having enough to eat
Amid all the political upheaval, we are very pleased to say that a good few TDs and Senators found time this week to attend an event of importance to those of us who are concerned with global issues. On 23 November, Concern, AWEPA and Dóchas hosted a seminar for members of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament) about global hunger, to mark the launch of a new publication, the Global Hunger Index.
Hunger is a key global justice issue
With one in every six people on the planet going hungry, it is surprising to note to what extent Hunger had gone “out of fashion” in global development thinking – and practice. Global investment in agriculture has been on a downward trend and in many a politician’s mind, solving Hunger was ultimately a question of simply boosting food production.
The 2008 global food crisis, and the publication in that same year of the Irish Government’s Hunger Task Force report changed that.
The Hunger Task Force described quite clearly the scale of the global hunger challenge, and highlighted that Hunger doesn’t just relate to HOW MUCH people eat, but also WHAT they eat. Hunger has a dimension of malnutrition as well as one of undernutrition.
The Global Hunger Index also emphasises the importance of nutrition. It deviates from the standard measurement of Hunger in terms of calories per day, and instead measures countries’ performance against three key indicators: the proportion of undernourished people in the general population, the prevalence of underweight children and the mortality rate of children.
The report is important not just because it further reinforces a gradual re-prioritisation of Hunger as a Development issue (following on from the G8 Summit in L’Aquila and more recently the 1,000 days initiative, but also because it allows the analysis of the differences of the Hunger problem by country and region.
Put simply, in Asia malnutrition has its roots in the low status of women whereas in Africa there are clear links between nutrition and conflict or bad governance.
At the November 2010 event at the Oireachtas all speakers emphasised the crucial role of women, as well as the need to guard against over-simplification: Just as fighting Hunger is not simply a matter of increasing food production, it isn’t simply a matter of increasing food intake. There is an important – and difficult – dimension of behavioural change, both among aid donors and among poor communities.
And we all know that behaviour doesn’t change in line with the availability of information.
Further reading: Our briefing paper, Hunger: The Face of Poverty, gives a good outline of how Irish NGOs work towards eradicating hunger.