UPSC model essay : Overcoming hunger is not a gesture of charity; it is an act of justice
‘Hunger and poverty are the worst form of violence.’
Today, 33% of the world population is considered to be starving and 1.5 million children die from hunger every year. These are just figures – and there are many more. But behind these figures are human beings. Each of these people had a face and a name, and each of them is mourned. Each of these poor in these figures have been denied basic human rights.
Hunger is a serious global issue which directly or indirectly is a result of global policies and politics on food production and distribution and discrimination against some regions in the same. So, when we discuss the issue of hunger there is sympathy underlying in place of which there should be the feeling of responsibility for their deplorable condition. Hunger is not an issue of charity as the global population would feel about it looking at pictures of the suffering population of Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia but an issue of justice, social, political and human justice.
Globally Right to food is considered as a human right and rightly so as it is as basic as life itself and when one is denied that right because of circumstances manufactured by other agencies, it is almost criminal. The sustainable development goal (SDG) 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition. Article 21 of Indian constitution gives the right to life and liberty and right to food is a fundamental right in India.
But despite the recognition and understanding of the issue hunger still persists. According to “The State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2015” report, more than 150 million people are undernourished in India. By this measure India is home to a quarter of the undernourished population in the world. Another critically affected region is Sub- Saharan Africa. Sub Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished. ‘Hidden hunger’, ‘double burden of malnutrition’, ‘Asian enigma’ etc are the frequent terminologies associated with these regions.
Causes of hunger:
Direct and most visible cause of hunger is poverty as the poor do not have the purchasing power to get enough food for themselves and their families. This makes them weaker and less able to earn the money that would help them escape poverty and hunger. This is not just a day-to-day problem: when children are chronically malnourished, or ‘stunted’, it can affect their future income, condemning them to a life of poverty and hunger.
Natural disasters such as floods, tropical storms and long periods of drought are on the increase with calamitous consequences for the hungry poor in developing countries. Drought is one of the most common causes of food shortages in the world. In 2011, recurrent drought caused crop failures and heavy livestock losses in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In many countries, climate change is exacerbating already adverse natural conditions. Lack of investment in agriculture is another reason for inadequate food production in many developing countries.
But apart from the natural causes there are many artificial reasons for unbalanced distribution of food resources in the world. Firstly, In recent years, the price of food products has been very unstable. Price spikes make food out of reach temporarily, which can have lasting consequences for small children. When prices rise, consumers often shift to cheaper, less- nutritious foods, heightening the risks of micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition.
Secondly, there is food wastage. According to the WFP report, one third of all food produced (1.3 billion tons) is never consumed. This food wastage represents a missed opportunity to improve global food security in a world where one in 8 is hungry.
Thirdly, war and displacement is another major factor pushing huge populations into the condition of food scarcity. Across the globe, conflicts consistently disrupt farming and food production. Fighting also forces millions of people to flee their homes, leading to hunger emergencies as the displaced find themselves without the means to feed themselves. The conflict in Syria is a recent example. In war, food sometimes becomes a weapon. Soldiers will starve opponents into submission by seizing or destroying food and livestock and systematically wrecking local markets. Fields are often mined and water wells contaminated, forcing farmers to abandon their land. Ongoing conflict in Somalia and the Democratic The Republic of Congo has contributed significantly to the level of hunger in the two countries. By comparison, hunger is on the retreat in more peaceful parts of Africa such as Ghana and Rwanda.
Finally, discrimination affects the food distribution in a family, society and world over. Racial discrimination and competition between ethnic groups have caused hunger, malnutrition, and resource deprivation for black populations in South Africa and the Americas, Indians in Latin America, Kurd in Iraq, and Tamils in Sri Lanka, to name just few. In every group women are the worst sufferers. The gender inequities in the society affect the food consumption and nutrition level of women. Women bear and nourish children, they have special nutritional needs. Yet women of every age have disproportionately higher rates of malnutrition than men and are over represented among poor, illiterate, and displaced people. A mother who is stunted or underweight due to an inadequate diet often gives birth to low birth-weight children.
Consequences of hunger:
We can see that hunger is not a situation naturally created but manifestation of social, political and economic injustice at family, society, national and international level Chronic hunger or food insecurity is as devastating to families, communities and countries as is famine. Chronic hunger claims more victims than famine each year by far. The effects of hunger are debilitating. Firstly, it leads to high Infant-Mortality Rates, malnourished women are more likely to be sick, have smaller babies, and die earlier, resulting in high levels of infant mortality in areas where chronic hunger is a problem. And where infant and child mortality is high, birth rates are also high, locking these communities in a vicious cycle of malnutrition and death.
Secondly, it causes vulnerability to Common Illnesses. More than two million children die every year from dehydration caused by diarrhea. A malnourished child often lacks the strength to survive a severe case of diarrhoea. There is Increased risk of Infection. A malnourished child has a weakened immune system, making the child more vulnerable to infection. Infections cause lack of appetite and fürther compromise the child’s ability to fight of recurrent and lingering infections.
Thirdly, it is an impediment to economic growth and development. Hunger deprives children of the essential proteins, micro-nutrients and fatty acids they need to grow adequately. Globally, it is estimated that nearly 226 million children are stunted-shorter than they should be. In addition, stunted children score significantly lower on intelligence tests than do normal children. For the nearly 67 million children who weigh less than they should due to chronic hunger, completing school is an unlikely reality. Studies have shown that underweight children will probably spend fewer years in school, which, in turn, has a measurable impact on how much they earn in adulthood.
Remedy for reducing hunger:
For this reason, the solutions have to be aimed at resolving the issue of justice and not just supplying food grains as charity. The global politics over agriculture and food production has to stop; the WTO has to play a key role in ensuring a trade regime which is not detrimental to the poorer developing nations who have disproportionately higher hungry mouths to feed. Speculations in food market should be regulated.
We need to actively promote sustainable farming practices. The pressure to achieve targets on reduced carbon emissions from fossil fuel has seen rich countries turning sugar, maize and other food crops into ethanol and biodiesel, this has to be controlled as well. There is a direct correlation with hunger and gender inequalities. Empowering women to gain access to food, be providers, and lead their families has had a major impact on food access and ability to change financial situations. WFP report said- If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million. Women’s needs and rights are receiving greater weight in development efforts, but there is still a long way to go before women and men around the world have equal economic, social, and political opportunities.
At domestic level, the government has to have concerted policy for minimising these injustices and ensuring that no person in India sleeps empty stomach. Issues in the PDS system like grains rotting at FCI godowns, corruption etc. need to be addressed. Economic condition of each individual has to be improved. For this we need job creation through feces on employment intensive sectors like tourism and manufacturing sector.
Thus, to conclude, solving world hunger requires people coming together from all career fields including agriculturists, nutritionists, economists, community builders, journalists and more. Fighting hunger and malnutrition requires improving roads, setting up clean water systems, getting politicians to make smart and informed policies and laws, producing healthy food and making sure people have sustainable access to that food.
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