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Oct-08-2010 11:47printcomments

Hunger costs Poor Countries $450 Billion a Year

Zebra corpse in starving Africa
Threat to life … a Masai man passes a zebra carcass in Kenya, which is in a region where hundreds of people have died from hunger and thirst recently. Reuters photo courtesy: The Sydney Morning Herald

(PORTLAND, Ore.) - ActionAid has released their report revealing the cost developing nations face in the fight against hunger, an estimated $450 billion a year - more than ten times the amount needed to halve hunger by 2015.

“Fighting hunger now will be ten times cheaper than ignoring it. Every year reduced worker productivity, poor health and lost education costs poor countries billions. And the cost is not just financial. If governments don’t act now over a million more children could die by 2015 and half of Africa won’t have enough food in ten years” said Joanna Kerr, ActionAid’s CEO. “Recent food riots are a sharp reminder that poor countries cannot rely on unstable global food markets. Investing in local farms where the world’s hungry live is the best way to avert another food crisis.”

The report Who’s really fighting hunger?, emphasizes the obstacles and actions many countries must take in an effort to control the growing number of hungry people. ActionAid’s report discusses when many of the outlined countries will meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and scores nations on their efforts in combating hunger.

“Times are hard and budgets are tight, so now more than ever it’s important for governments to invest in the right places. Rich countries must stop pulling statistical tricks and show us how and when the money they have promised will reach the people who need it most” said Henry Malumo ActionAid’s Africa Hunger Free Coordinator.

ActionAid’s report reveals 20 out of 28 poor nations are lacking the progress to meet the MD goal of halving hunger by 2015. Twelve of the 20 are falling backwards, despite the United Nations claim that the world is on target.

As the Food and Agriculture Organization revealed the number of hungry people in the world has dropped ActionAid’s Head of Policy Meredith Alexander had this reply. “This is hardly time for celebration. Hunger is still no better than it was before the global food crisis and the goal to halve hunger is decades off track. The fact remains hunger is still costing poor countries $450 billion a year. As the spectre of the global economic crisis continues to loom large governments must remember it is ten times cheaper to halve hunger than ignore it.”

DR Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Lesotho rank bottom on the score card. Despite a radical and rapid increase in India’s economy, drastic cuts in agriculture and support to small farms, means nearly half of the country’s children are malnourished and one in five of the population is hungry.

“Lack of food really is a matter of life and death. Hunger will contribute to the deaths of 100,000 mothers this year alone. The eyes of the world will be on New York to see if leaders will rise to the challenge and offer solutions equal to the size of this very real problem,” added Meredith Alexander to

ActionAid reveals the hunger goal is going backwards globally due to lack of investment in agriculture and rural development, few legal rights to food in developing nations and little or no support services to help farming communities when harvests fail.

Ms. Alexander explained, “Emergency food and vitamins alone cannot take down the Goliath that is global hunger. Hunger also needs to be tackled at source. We look forward to the day that women farmers, who produce 80 per cent of food in poor countries are able to grow their way out of hunger. For this to happen rich nations must deliver on their promise to scale up investment now.”

G8 nations pledged $22 billion in 2009 to fight hunger, yet ActionAid estimates $14 billion of this is in fact old aid promises repackaged and it is still unclear when or how the money will be spent.

"The UN summit was an expensive side-show that offered everything to everyone and nothing to no one. An avalanche of warm sentiment cleverly concealed the fact that no fully funded plans of action for tackling poverty were actually announced. With the world still reeling from a global food crisis and the threat of another looming, world leaders should have initiated an emergency response here at the summit. Instead for yet another year nearly a billion people will go to bed hungry and the world will be $450 billion poorer,” Ms. Kerr expressed to

Brazil, China, Ghana, Malawi and Vietnam, all top ActionAid’s scorecard, slashed hunger dramatically by increasing investment in small farms and introducing social protection schemes such as public works employment, cash transfers, food rations, and free school meals. Malawi has reduced the number of people living on food aid from 4.5 million to 150,000 in just five years. Brazil has halved the number of underweight children in less than 10 years. China will meet its hunger goal five years early.

Ms. Alexander urged the international leaders, “Today almost a billion people won’t have enough to eat. Their chance of a better future rests on the world leaders if they can find the political will to act, they could throw a life line to the world’s hungry, who with the right support can feed themselves.”

Source: ActionAid

Who’s really fighting hunger?

Developing countries (scored best to worst):

(1)Brazil, (2)China, (3)Vietnam, (4)Malawi, (5)Ghana, (6)Bangladesh, (7)Mozambique, (8)Uganda, (9)Guatemala, (10)Ethiopia, (11)Rwanda, (12)Nigeria, (13)Cambodia, (14)Nepal, (15)Tanzania, (16)Kenya, (17)Senegal, (18)Liberia, (19)Zambia, (20)Haiti, (21)India, (22)South Africa, (23)Gambia, (24)Lesotho, (25)Pakistan, (26)Sierra Leone, (27)Burundi, (28)DR Congo.

How has ActionAid calculated $450 billion in losses to GDP?

A recent UN and World Food Programme cross country analysis of the economic impact of child malnutrition in Central America, determined that the opportunity cost of child malnourishment amounted to between 2% - 12% of GDP annually. Ninety per cent of this impact was loss of productivity due to early deaths and lower education levels caused by hunger. A further ten percent came from the cost of treating hunger-related diseases and from more children repeating school grades. Projecting the lower end of this loss only for the regions with highest child hunger levels (sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia), a conservative 3.5% reduction in GDP due to child malnutrition could cost these regions as much as $462 billion a year. Rounded down, this is approximately $450 billion.

Alysha Atma spends many hours working on projects that support and benefit the beleaguered people of African nations who spend way too much time off the western media's radar. This writer explains that she is a culmination of all her experiences, most importantly knowledge she says, and all that she still needs to learn; lessons of love, laughter and the extraordinary giving of both young and old. She says she has the enormous fortune of learning from the best; every person around her, and the amazing strength and fortitude of those she has never met but will always strive to listen to. "I continue to work and write because I believe in the power of community and the power of one, both contradictory to each other and yet can move together in a very powerful way. I feel a responsibility to use my place, freedoms and connections here in the US to stand up and yell for those who need my voice and actions. I have seen such strength in my fellow humans that I cannot even begin to comprehend, they have traveled distances, have gone without food, water, shelter and safety for days and weeks at a time. I have a responsibility as a fellow human to put our common humanity before anything else. Everyone deserves to look towards tomorrow, to dream of a safe future and to have a peaceful present." You can write to Alysha Atma at:

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bestygirl December 13, 2010 8:53 am (Pacific time)

that is sad poor zebra i wish that that wouldn't happen

RR October 10, 2010 12:13 pm (Pacific time)

Vic I hear you about Mexico and the impact the catholic church has on the birth rate. So what influences do you think are at play in countries with an even higher birth rate that are not catholic influenced like China, India, Pakistan, and literally every country in Africa? Sometimes there are no really easy answers Vic, but then maybe there is? Look at the different birth rates here in the states and in Europe. Some groups (averaging) really stand out.

Anonymous October 10, 2010 12:05 pm (Pacific time)

It was just reported that for the 2nd year in a row there will be no "COLA" for social security recipients. This also means no raises for disabled veterans, for they are tied into the same "COLA" formula. We need to take care of our own people before the rest of the world gets one red cent of our tax money. Africa is their problem, we have given and given for a very long time. Now we must take care of our people first, let the loving anti-Americans chip in. Maybe those African members of the UN who live like potentates in New York on our tax money can start sending money to their own people? That would be novel. I have a big heart and hate to see human suffring, but our people are hurting and they take priority.

Mike October 9, 2010 6:29 pm (Pacific time)

Alysha it is a sad state of affairs the way many of our donations have been held up. I saw it reported that of the approximately 9 billion dollars from around the world donated to Haiti, they have only received around 10%. I also read that our congress is holding up some monies to various countries because they have not been funded. Do you know how much it cost to send our military into Haiti? They were there for quite a while and helped save many lives and reduced much suffering. We rarely give the kudos to our military like we should. Even at this moment they are all around the world helping people, not just fighting two wars. This is a very expensive undertaking we do by funding our military. As I'm sure you are also aware there is much corruption and quite often money and supplies never reach the distressed population that they are intended for because of that corruption, all over the world.Our educational system works well in some locations and very badly in others. For example the most spent per student (per capita) is in Washington DC and they have the lowest test scores. The lowest spent per capita in the nation is Salt Lake City and they have some of the highest test scores in the nation. Many like to point to money as the answer to curing the world's problems, but the evidence does not support that. I do admit I am very proud of you and your committment to Africa, but the answers to their ills, as well as our growing problems is not really about money, but I dare say, engaging in responsible behavior. People have no problem helping others who are responsible in their behavior, when possible of course. There is that saying "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink."

Vic October 9, 2010 4:32 pm (Pacific time)

Here in Mexico you can blame the rampant birthrate on one thing...the Catholic church and their contraception-is-a-sin policy. Seems senseless to me, but I understand the makes more Catholics.

Alysha October 9, 2010 10:34 am (Pacific time)

Mike, we are the largest giver in all honesty however we are the largest "said" giver for example we promised Haiti millions and have only given one percent the rest is tied up in the legislative process. This same process is repeated all over the world, in DRC we promised money but it took almost five years to get it there and still has not been received in its entirety. Do you know how much money is spent on our military budget??? The reason our kids our dropping out of school is lack of resources, in Oregon alone we have the shortest school year, this year alone it dropped 11-14 days down to 165 days a year. We spend 10 fold on military then education that is why we have the biggest military and the shortest school year in the world. This is unacceptable and I encourage you to write and educate others on those subjects that you are passionate about. I again ask why can we not concentrate on all of the world, we are becoming increasingly interconnected and will need those allies that we help with aid in the future. We have a foreign aid budget dedicated to International affairs that will not change, our job is to ask that is allocated in a responsible way, ie investing in farms not drop aid. Also remember that we are called one the biggest donors because our private donors are leading the way ie The Gates foundation. As private money we have zero control to where or whom it is spent as a journalist it is my responsibility to continue to educate. I am the Africa journalist therefore that is what I cover and to be honest that is where I spend most of my money and resources. The people there lack the ability that even our homeless and unemployed have. Lack of education and high death rates among the young have to do with infrastructure and ability, these are very young countries only 50 years old do not compare them with our over 200 year old country. We have a mass of educated people running our countries many in Africa are only experiencing there first generation of educated leaders, yet we expect them to run as ours is run that is not possible. Our educated leaders have made choices beyond our control that put us in this position why should other countries suffer and not get the promised aid because our leaders cannot see the priorities of our children's education and the feeding of our unemployed.

What this article pointed out was that if the problem is tackled correctly that is become a bigger problem. The way in which it is being delt with is like putting a band aid on a gun shot wound, eventually you have to close the would but if you wait too long then it gets infected and becomes ever larger and uncontrollable than if you would have just gone to the doctor to have in sewn shut. Hunger is a world wide problem, some more than others and has a myriad of issues surrounding it, but we need to tackle this head on and quickly through investment not aid or it will continue to cost more and more without solving the issue.

Anonymous October 8, 2010 8:32 pm (Pacific time)

Yes, I have been wondering too, that in recent times, Salem News has been covering widely foreign news and human tragedies, while avoiding our internal social dilemna, from uncovering the truth about hunger in America,to homelesness, social injustices, and the ever-increasing nationwide tyranny by the unchecked, and uncontrolled judiciary in "Third World America", citing memorable a book by A. Huffington. There is rarely a comment on the lack of checks and balances on the the uncontrolled rulings from the bench,depriving citizens of there property, life's savings, freedom of choice in "wards of the State" cases, violating the State's and federal laws and Constitution

Mike October 8, 2010 6:30 pm (Pacific time)

We need to have new and structured priorities. America is the largest "giver" of food, medical care, and other types of assistance all over the world. Our Peace Corps has been in action for approximately 50 years. I have talked to a number of Peace Corps volunteers from the 1960's who went back to many area's that they had helped and most had transformed back to the state they were in prior to the Corps' intervention. We in America are facing a serious diminishing of our own resources; couple that with a literal invasion of undocumented immigrants who have incrediblely high birth rates means that we are going to have to make some hard decisions to not just insure our lifestyles but our very survival. Alysha we are developing a quickly growing underclass based on a number of things, one is our very high school drop out rate and the illegals that are coming here. It is unlikely they will diminish in size. Have you ever traveled to India? Well if not, go to certain areas in Michigan and you'll see a growing problem that frankly is very unlikely to get better. Just the same we our the world's leader in helping people around the world, but soon that will be cut back. There needs to be a big push to bring the birth rate to a minus growth, we simply are about to run out of both time and resources. I clearly recall the tragedy In Biafra, and so many more tragedies, we cannot continue to play the world's policeman, nor the grocery and medical provider very much longer. If you look at the real unemployment numbers which include those who have given up on looking for work, nearly one out of five Americans have no fulltime job. Things may turn around after this upcoming election but our congress left DC before setting a budget oo even setting next years tax rates. This means that private business cannot anticipate their expenses, so new investments for more jobs is on hold. This has been one very irresponsible congress and it also impacts the whole world. Think about it.

Alysha October 8, 2010 2:22 pm (Pacific time)

Anonymous It is always easy for people to talk then act. My question is what do you do for American families to help with our hunger issue and why can't we help both? We should be helping each other regardless of boundaries, culture and religion we are all interconnected and what happens there will and does affect us here. The hunger issue is much larger due to things such as drought, wars and aid verses investment not birth control.

Anonymous October 8, 2010 12:43 pm (Pacific time)

In my country, it is an all time record for the number of people on food stamps along with the fact that the high unemployment rate has not been this bad since the 1930's. My prayers are that when we take care of every last American's needs, then we can go help others in a more meaningful way. The 3rd world countries have such a high birth rate that eventually their need for food would outstrip the ability of Western Civilization's production. Time to educate about birth control for they will eventually have such a massive die off from starvation of their own making, and that's a Darwinism.

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