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World Hunger: Why Does It Happen?

written by: Laura Powell • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/21/2013

Have you ever wondered why some people go to bed hungry every night when you are well fed? Let's learn the reasons why world hunger still exists today.

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    Why They Hunger

    (untitled) When I was a young child, my 4-H club would take a walk for hunger ever year. We would go door to door and collect donations in a little box given to us by Unicef, one of the biggest philanthopy organizations fighting world hunger. A few years ago, I realized I was still giving money to causes trying to help keep people around the world fed, and I wondered why more than twenty years later, hadn't this issue gone away completely.

    My first thought was that we'd didn't produce enough food to feed everyone in the world, but as I researched I found I was wrong. We make enough food to feed the entire population of 6.7 billion people according to the World Food Programme. So why are 1.02 billion people in the world going hungry? I searched deeper for answers and found that the answer was more complex than I thought.

    POVERTY Poverty is the number one cause of malnutrition. Poor people's lack of resources, the fact that there is an unequal distribution of income and the inability to earn a decent wage, along with economic problems in different countries contribute to poverty. If a person is poor, he/she can't afford to buy the supplies needed to become a farmer, and in many areas where hunger exists, farming is the choice lifestyle.

    GOVERNMENTAL ISSUES While poverty is the major reason people don't have enough to eat, the real number one cause is Blue, advanced; Yellow, emerging; Red, underdeveloped government control within certain countries. In developing countries (countries that have a low level of material well-being), there are more hungry people than anywhere else. Of the 1 billion hungry people living in the world, 915 million live in developing countries. The governments in these countries may also be developing, or perhaps the leaders are corrupt. While there may be pockets of wealth, it is not well distributed, and many people in these countries suffer. (See the chart to the right from Wikimedia). Certain governments also have less interest in helping develop their country's agriculture, which affects the many farmers trying to make a living.

    WAR Since 1992, short- and long-term food crises due to war have risen from 15% causing world hunger to reach 35% affecting the global food crisis. The fighting in the war-torn countries forces people to move away from their homes, any work or food they had there, and move to areas that most likely are already poor for producing crops. Food can also be used as a weapon in war, as fields and water wells are destroyed to force people to move or into personal crisis.

    DIASTERS TO CROPS Even from Biblical times floods, locusts, and other diasters have produced famine in different countries. Today floods, storms, long periods of drought, hail, locusts, intense heat, and other bugs have caused crop shortages around the world. Counties must deal with disasters such as heavy flooding, insufficient rain or locust hordes. If you look online at World or other websites, they have running windows showing which countries are dealing with the heaviest oppression of hunger.

    ECONOMIC CRISIS According to the World Hunger website, another major contributor is the economic crisis facing the world. Even in countries with advanced economies, financial downturns are taking a toll around the world. There has been an increase in food prices and even the cost of shipping goods. People give less money to philanthropic organizations when they are making less, or if they are more concerned about personal finances.

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    Those Most Affected By The Global Food Crisis

    Children Children are most affected and the most invisible victims. A statistic shows that a malnourished child suffers 160 days of illnesses a year. Five million children die a year with underlying causes stemming from malnutrition. The underlying causes include diarrhea, malaria, pneumonia, and measles.

    Farmers A large percentage of hungry people are farmers in underdeveloped countries. They are trying to survive off of poor land that deals with droughts or flooding.

    Countries Most Affected There is a pie chart on the World Hunger website that shows which parts of the world have the most malnourished people. Countries in Asia and the Pacific have the most hungry people, followed by sub-Saharan Africa.

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    What Can Be Done

    In November 2009, the most recent international World Food Summit was held in Rome, Italy where countries sent liaisons to discuss the global food crisis. The big response to soaring food prices was to help small producers raise their output and earn more money. One example was a $10.2 million dollar scheme to distribute quality seed to Haiti. Many organizations send food and supplies around the world. Making donations to these organizations helps. World Vision not only sends immediate needs, like food and energy bars, but also sends animals and farming supplies, digs wells, and gives people the tools they need to help themselves for a lifetime, not just a day.

    While the world food crisis is hard to understand and fix completely, there is no time for apathy. Remember Theodore Roosevelt's words: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

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    WH: World Hunger.Org

    FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (

    WFP: World Food Programme (

    Image Credit:

    Wikimedia Commons "Hauling water in Malawi.jpg"