This year’s Nobel Prize for Economics for research into most effective ways to tackle poverty has once again turned the spotlight on the fundamental problem the humanity faces, especially in the developing world: How to acquire such basic necessities of life as food, cloth and shelter.
Across the world, approximately 1.2bn people live in extreme poverty, on less than $1 a day, according to a 2018 World Health Organisation Report. At least 17mn children suffer from severe acute malnutrition around the world, which is the direct cause of death for 2mn children every year.
Here’s the disturbing other side of the crisis.
The world loses about $400bn worth of food before it even gets delivered to stores, according to the UN.
Some 14% of all food produced is lost annually, with central and southern Asia, North America and Europe accounting for the biggest shares, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a report last week.
Better cold storage and infrastructure would help reduce losses, but more detailed data on the supply chain is needed to tackle the problem, it said.
In the Gulf, between a third and half of the food produced is estimated to go to waste.
Global food wastage is drawing increased scrutiny because of the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s hungry rose to more 820mn people last year, according to a UN report that highlights issues of improper nutrition and economic inequality.
Last year was the third consecutive year hunger increased, following a decline over several decades. War, climate change and troubled economies were among the key reasons behind the gain, according to recent reports by the FAO, the World Food Programme, the WHO, and other agencies.
Under the Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders have pledged to try to eradicate hunger and malnutrition by 2030. Companies are also trying to improve efficiency in the food industry.
But the deadline looks challenging.
More than half of those hungry live in areas affected by violent conflicts that have destroyed local agriculture and limited access to food supplies, with African nations being among the worst hit.
Africa could be home to 90% of the world’s poor by 2030 as governments across the continent have little fiscal space to invest in poverty-reduction programmes and economic growth remains sluggish, the World Bank said. That’s up from 55% in 2015 and it will happen unless drastic action is taken, the lender said in its biannual Africa Pulse report last week.
Global commodities markets have seen huge inflows of investment since the 2008 global financial crisis, looking for better returns. With automated trading systems meticulously looking to exploit tiny flaws in the market, food prices are often volatile, even amid a global glut of grains.
Make no mistake, the great food divide widening. An estimated 14% of global food production is wasted every year. At the same time, around 45% of all child deaths worldwide are from causes related to undernutrition, says the WHO.
Hunger is a biting reality and societies tend to unravel when people are starving.
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