When global hunger was estimated to be 792 million people back in the year 2000, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) wrote in the 2000 State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report:
“In a world of unprecedented wealth, these levels of need are disgraceful.”
Ten years later, in the 2010 SOFI report, which discussed the aftermath of the 2008 food price crisis that saw skyrocketing prices of food and pushed millions into extreme hunger (leading to revolutions that toppled governments in a few countries), the FAO wrote:
“The fact that nearly a billion people remain hungry even after the recent food and financial crises have largely passed indicates a deeper structural problem…economic growth, while essential, will not be sufficient in itself to eliminate hunger…”
And in the 2020 SOFI report (launched before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic could be assessed), the FAO reported that hunger has gotten worse and issued some of its starkest warnings:
“It is unacceptable that, in a world that produces enough food to feed its entire population, more than 1.5 billion people cannot afford a diet that meets the required levels of essential nutrients, and over 3 billion people cannot even afford the cheapest healthy diet…we are facing a global problem that affects us all.”
And today, with increasingly catastrophic climate impacts and the brutal invasion of Ukraine making hunger and food security even worse, the FAO reports that, at a minimum, 3.1 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet.
How is it that after 20 years of a supposedly concerted global effort to eliminate hunger, extreme hunger globally is basically unchanged and still unconscionably high, and malnutrition and diet-related disease affect almost half the planet?
These UN reports are clear that hunger is systemic and that capitalist growth cannot end it. The reports are also clear that poverty is the leading cause of hunger, even though malnutrition affects wealthy countries.
Why aren’t countries listening? Why aren’t they taking action? Why did President Biden nominate an agribusiness lobbyist to be Secretary of Agriculture? And why is Agriculture Secretary Vilsack trying to stop the EU’s efforts to transition to organic farming?
What else can we conclude but that the political leaders of wealthy countries do not care about ending hunger; instead, they care about maintaining agribusiness corporations’ profits and control. And the sooner we realize that our political leaders are not going to solve these problems for us, the sooner we can begin to organize, build power together, and solve them ourselves through grassroots, community leadership, which has always been the backbone of the work to advance human rights that we support as ActionAid.