Record 1 billion go hungry, says UN
AP 15 October 2009, 07:10am IST
NAIROBI: Parents in some of Africa's poorest countries are cutting back on school, clothes and basic medical care just to give their children a meal once a day, experts say. Still, it is not enough.
A record 1 billion people worldwide are hungry and a new report says the number will increase if governments do not spend more on agriculture. According to the UN food agency, which issued the report, 30 countries now require emergency aid, including 20 in Africa.
The trend continues despite a goal set by world leaders nine years ago to cut the number of hungry people in half by 2015.
``It's actually a world emergency that calls for action from both developing and developed countries,'' said Otive Igbuzor, the head of international campaigns for ActionAid International.
``We know a child dies every six seconds of malnutrition,'' he said.
Spiraling food prices have added to hardships, especially in the world's most desperate countries where the poor could barely afford a single daily meal to begin with. The inflated prices -- which caused riots across the globe last year -- have stabilized but remain comparatively high, especially in the developing world, Jacques Diouf, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, told AP Television News.
In Somalia, ravaged by violence and anarchy for almost two decades, the monthly expenditure for food and other basic needs for a family of six has risen 85 percent in the past two years, said Grainne Moloney of the Somalia Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.
On average, such a family spent $171 in September this year, compared with $92 for the same amount of food and other needs in March 2007, said Moloney, a nutrition expert for the Horn of Africa nation.
``Families are cutting out the school, cutting out the clothes. A lot of them are going for cheaper cereals,'' said Moloney, adding that despite those desperate measures, one in five children in Somalia is acutely malnourished.
Igbuzor said the trend can be seen in impoverished countries across Africa.
In Kenya, herders have seen scores of their animals die and crops have withered because of drought. Today, 3.8 million people in Kenya need food aid, up from 2.5 million earlier in the year.
After worldwide gains in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year amid escalating food prices and the global financial meltdown, the FAO said in its Wednesday report.
The long-term trend is due largely to reduced aid and private investments earmarked for agriculture since the mid 1980s, the Rome-based agency said in its State of Food Insecurity report for 2009.
In 1980, 17 percent of aid contributed by donor countries went to agriculture. That share was down to 3.8 percent in 2006 and only slightly improved in the last three years, Diouf said.
``In the fight against hunger the focus should be on increasing food production,'' Diouf said. ``It's common sense ... that agriculture would be given the priority, but the opposite has happened.''
The decline may have been caused by low food prices that discouraged private investment in agriculture and competition for public funds from other aid fields, including emergency relief, said FAO economist David Dawe.
Governments and investors may also have chosen to put their money into other economic sectors because agriculture's share of the economy in some developing countries dropped as people moved to cities and found work in industry.
But agriculture still needs sustained investment to feed people in developing countries, Dawe said.
The world's most populous region, Asia and the Pacific, has the largest number of hungry people -- 642 million -- followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 265 million.
Diouf said world leaders are starting to understand that investment in agriculture must be increased. He cited the goal set by the Group of Eight summit in L'Aquila, Italy, in July to raise $20 billion to help farmers in poor countries produce more -- a shift from previous emphasis on delivering food aid.
However, more investments will be needed to fulfill pledges like the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve the number of those living in hunger and poverty by 2015, the report said.
The FAO says global food output will have to increase by 70 percent to feed a projected population of 9.1 billion in 2050.
To achieve that, poor countries will need $44 billion in annual agricultural aid, compared with the current $7.9 billion, to increase access to irrigation systems and modern machinery as well as build roads and train farmers.
What does the Quran say:
2:215 (A crucial step toward the establishment of this Zakaat Order will
be the equitable distribution of wealth.) They ask you, (O Messenger!)
what they shall give. Say, “That which you give shall first go to parents,
relatives, orphans, widows, and those who are left helpless or feel left
out in the society, the poor, those whose hard earned income is
insufficient to meet their basic needs, those whose lives have stalled for
any reason, and the disabled, the needy wayfarer, and the homeless
son of the street.” And whatever good you do, then most certainly, God
is well Aware of it.
2:254 O You who have chosen to be graced with belief! Use Our
Provision to satisfy the needs of fellow human beings and for the
betterment of the society. Do that before the day comes when no
bargaining, friendship or intercession shall be of any avail. Those who
reject such sensible admonition, do grave injustice to themselves.
2:270 Whatever you spend on others or whatever pledge to spend you
make, God knows it. Those who violate human rights by withholding
charity shall have none to help them.
2:271 If you disclose your charities, it is well, but if you give in secret to
the needy, it will be better for you. This kind of giving has the power of
erasing the imprints of your ill deeds on your own ‘self’. This law has
been decreed by God Who knows the effects of your actions on your
90:12 Ah, what will convey to you what that Ascent is!
90:13 Freeing others from bondage, physical or mental, and from any
social, economic or political oppression.
90:14 Feeding in times of hunger, famine, wars and natural disasters.
90:15 Taking special care of those who, despite being a part of the
community, feel left out.
90:16 Helping him who remains needy though he toils in the dust.
What happens when we don't share God's bounties with the needy?
7:40 Those who deny Our messages, and scorn them, the gates of
heaven will not be opened for them, and they will not enter the Garden
until the camel goes through the eye of a needle. This is how We
recompense the guilty.
16:112 God gives you an example. Think of a township that used to be
secure and prosperous, with provision coming to it in plenty from all
directions. But, they practically denied God's blessings by not sharing
them with the needy. So God’s law made it experience the garb of
hunger and fear for their wrong system.
72:14 And some of us have submitted (to God) while there are others
who make compromises (between the right and wrong). Those who
submit (to God), they have found the path to right guidance.
72:15 And those who make compromises (between the right and
wrong,) they are but fuel for the Hell."
74:43 They will reply, "We were not of the Musalleen.”
74:44 “Neither did we feed the hungry, nor did we take part in helping
those who had lost their jobs, those whose businesses had stalled, and
those whose hard-earned income was insufficient to meet their basic
89:16 But when He lets his life take a turn by restricting his provision, he
says, “My Lord has disgraced me.”
89:17 Nay, nay, you do not honor the orphan.
89:18 And you fail to encourage one another to feed the needy
And the reward for doing the right thing:
2:274 Those who spend their wealth on the needy, by night and by day,
secretly or publicly, have their reward with their Sustainer. They shall
have nothing to fear or regret.
4:124 And whoever fulfills the needs of the people, whether male or
female, and is a believer, will enter Paradise. And not the least injustice
will be done to them (not amounting to the ‘speck on a date-stone’ 4:53,
5:9 God promises the protection of forgiveness and a Great reward to
those who attain belief and do works that fulfill the needs of people and
increase the well being of society.
6:48 We have sent Our messengers to give good news and to warn.
Those who attain belief, mend their ways and work for social equity
fulfilling the needs of others, will have nothing to fear nor will they have
13:29 The abode of bliss is guaranteed to those who accept the
message and fulfill the needs of others.
18:46 (Divine bounties and blessings are for you to enjoy, but they are a
means to a higher end 7:32.) Wealth and children are the joys of the life
of this world. But good deeds that fulfill the needs of others, their fruit
endures forever. Such actions are of far greater merit in the Sight of your
Lord, and the best foundation of hope.
18:88 But whoever chooses to believe and helps others, he will have a
goodly reward and we will make his task easy by our command.”
18:107 But certainly, as for those who attain belief and fulfill the needs of
others, there will be gardens of Paradise to welcome them.
28:80 But those who knew better said, "Woe to you! Merit in the sight of
God is far better for anyone who believes and works for equity among
people. This reward is reserved for those who do not fall for instant
gains, and work hard steadfastly.”
32:16 They forsake their ‘comfort zone’ in calling people to their Lord,
fearing that they have not done enough and hoping to do better. And
they keep open for the needy the provision that We have given them.
[Madhaaje’ = Beds = Present circumstances = Comfort zone]
32:17 And no human being can imagine what blissful delights are kept
hidden for them as a reward for what they used to do.
19:62 There they will not hear any vain discourse, but only salutations of
Peace. And therein they will have their sustenance day and night.
[Likewise, in the Ideal Society no person will sleep hungry and there
shall be plenty of provision for all]
19:63 Such is the Garden which We give as an inheritance to those of
Our servants who have lived upright (and thus earned it with their own
Surah Maa'oon gives this message in the most powerful manner.
The world needs the Quran to be implemented.