More than 900 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger and fifteen percent of the world's population sleeps with hungry every night, a phenomenon that has been aggravated by the speculation on food products and the consequent increase in prices, as revealed by the World Red Cross Disaster Report 2011.

In contrast, 1.5 billion people in the world are overweight, even in emerging countries in South Asia and North Africa, where it takes more lives than hunger itself. This phenomenon of 'malnutrition' is due, in large part, to the boom in the importation of processed foods to the detriment of the direct production of raw materials for food use in the countries themselves.

As revealed by the 2011 Red Cross Disaster Report, three million children under the age of five die each year from malnutrition, and 178 million suffer from stunting due to the same cause

Another aspect highlighted by the report is that hunger and malnutrition they also affect the "prosperous West." In the United States, the government spent almost 68,000 million dollars in 2010 to feed more than 40 million people. In the European Union, one in every six inhabitants of the 27 Member States lives below the Poverty line. In Spain, in the context of the current economic crisis, the CRE was forced three years ago to reactivate its food distribution programs "out of necessity", programs that were practically abandoned. In these circumstances, the Red Cross provides food aid to some 700,000 people in Spain, 70% of whom are unemployed.

"925 million people were suffering from hunger in the world in 2010", according to the data of the Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) of the UN, explained last Thursday the general coordinator of the Spanish Red Cross (CRE), Antoni Bruel i Carreras, during the press conference to present the report at the headquarters of the organization in Madrid. "We are not talking about a bit of hunger, we are talking about lack of food, not eating, simply," he said.

According to the report, three million children under the age of five die each year from malnutrition and 178 million suffer from stunting due to the same cause. In addition, 60% of people who suffer from hunger in the world are women, which, according to Bruel, generates the "multiplier effect" of also affecting fetuses, during pregnancy, and babies during breastfeeding.

Among the factors that contribute to the "perfect storm" in the global food system, together with droughts and other natural disasters such as floods, the coordinator of the CRE highlighted the speculative increase in prices. "Speculation costs lives," he said. The problem is not the availability of food, of which "there is more than what is needed", but its access, he warned.

"After 18 months of relative stability, FAO's food price indexes have increased more than thirty percent in the second half of 2010", a percentage that is 57% in the specific case of cereals, precise.

Among the causes of this increase in prices, Bruel highlighted the "paradox" of the food futures markets, which were created in the 1960s "to avoid long-term price deviations" and that have become, precisely, "in an instrument to the contrary", to "speculate with the prices of articles of first necessity".

To put an end to this situation, according to Bruel, the States should assume the regulation of agricultural prices. "You can not speculate with basic raw materials," he said. "Prices must be regulated, as in fact it is done at the national level, in Spain, for example, a loaf of bread can not be sold at eight euros," he continued. "What you do not want for your house, you must not want it for the world," he declared.

Speculation and commercial interests, he said, are key factors to understand why the increase in agricultural yields in recent years has been due more to the increase in the cultivation of biofuels than to food production, and why 60% of the arable land not cultivated in the world is found in Africa.

In the African continent, explained Bruel, the majority of men are engaged in crops of commercial interest, while the cultivation of smallholdings, which contribute more directly to family food, corresponds mainly to women. The lack of aid in the form of subsidies and inputs to women smallholders, he warned, generates an "important gap in the diet of families", who are forced to go to an increasingly expensive market to feed themselves, instead of doing so by themselves.

Under these conditions, and as a counterpoint to the general situation, the increase in imports of processed foods to the detriment of the indigenous production of food raw materials is contributing, "even in emerging economies", to an increase in obesity throughout the world. world.

"Excess nutrition currently takes more lives in some countries in South Asia and North Africa, about 2.4 million per year, than hunger, which makes it clear that 'malnutrition' is a much more widespread phenomenon than hunger, "warned CRE.

The situation in the Horn of Africa

During the press conference to present the report, the delegate of the Spanish Red Cross in Kenya, Pablo Díez de la Lastra, affirmed that the current food crisis in the Horn of Africa "is not new", but it has attracted international attention and "it comes out more in the media" because of the situation of the Somali refugees and the conflict in Somalia, "which is partially a consequence of the extreme and permanent need that the Horn of Africa suffers".

According to the delegate of CRE, thirteen million people are affected by hunger and between 20 and 25 percent of children suffer from malnutrition in the Horn of Africa. "It is the worst drought of the last 60 years" and affects not only the crops, but the livestock of some largely pastoral populations.

According to Pablo Díez, the international response has been "delayed", despite being a "announced crisis". However, he said, the Red Cross has the "firm hope" that, in addition to short-term humanitarian interventions, "that save lives", governments, international organizations, humanitarian agencies and civil society, put in place " permanent mechanisms "that reinforce the capacities of the communities, improve their resistance to crises, and prevent these situations from recurring.

Spanish Red Cross has raised around four million euros to alleviate the food crisis in the Horn of Africa, much less than the 45 million received by the earthquake in Haiti, explained Antoni Bruel.


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