At the World Food Summit a decade ago, governments signed up to a plan of action to halve global hunger by 2015. Since then the number of hungry people in the world has risen by 54 million and now stands at 854 million.
“The time has come for politicians to deal decisively with the scourge of global hunger. We’ve had ten years of promises that global hunger will be halved but the number of hungry people in the world continues to rise. In a world of plenty the problem isn’t a lack of food, it is a lack of justice. Our message to those at the conference: act now or go home,” said Phil Bloomer, Oxfam’s Director of Campaigns and Policy.
Statistics that illustrate the failure of the international community to tackle the global hunger crisis:
· One person in seven on the planet goes to bed hungry, half of them are children.
· In sub-Saharan Africa the number of hungry people has increased by some 20 per cent since 1996.
· Over 200 million people in sub-Saharan Africa – more than a third of the population – is hungry.
· In Ethiopia 11-12 million people face hunger. The1984 Ethiopian food crisis struck 5-7 million people.
With three quarters of the world’s hungry living in rural areas Oxfam believes that investment in agriculture, rural infrastructure and employment generation are key to addressing the global hunger crisis. However rich country donors have lost the will to tackle rural poverty and many poor country governments skew their national budgets away from dealing with hunger.
International aid to agriculture development has slumped. In the mid-80s, aid to improve agriculture stood at 17 per cent of total aid. By 2001 it had slumped to a mere eight per cent. Aid money spent on agriculture to sub-Saharan Africa has declined by 43 per cent between 1990-02 and 2000-02.
In 2003 African countries committed themselves to spend at least 10 per cent of their annual budgets on agriculture within five years but it is estimated that many are still only spending five per cent of their budgets on agriculture.
During many humanitarian crises the stock response has been to send food aid. Food aid can and does save lives, but it is overused as a response to a crisis and aid is often used to dump surplus produce. Food aid from donor countries is usually more expensive and less timely than buying food close to the region of the crisis. Food aid also risks undercutting local farmers. Providing cash to the hungry that boosts local markets can be more effective.
Oxfam says the solution to global hunger includes strong economic growth, fairer trade and effective government.
The agency is calling for:
· Reversing the decline in investment together with political commitment to rural development – infrastructure, and support services – by both governments and donors.
· Working for fairer trading rules including stopping the attempts to force African countries to open their markets to the dumping of subsidised farm produce from rich countries.
· Establishing predictable ‘safety nets’, such as the employment guarantee schemes in India, that are well-targeted over the long term to the poorest hungry and most vulnerable.
· Building capacity of national and international bodies such as the African Union to achieve peaceful solutions to armed conflicts that explain 50% of Africa’s current food crises.
· Increasing further support to health services and other measures to prevent and limit the impact of HIV/AIDS and other diseases.