At the UN conference on Food Security in Madrid at the end of last month Oxfam, on the opening day, stressed that urgent action was required in order to prevent hundreds of millions more people slipping into hunger as a result of the 3 key factors - economic crisis, climate change and energy and water scarcity.
They have published a report, A Billion Hungry People, on addressing the issue of the 1 billion hungry people in the world that need help immediately. The UK think tank Chatham House has also just published their report The Feeding of the Nine Billion: Global Food Security for the 21st Century. The latter predicts that demand for food will increase as the world's population grows by 2.5 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050, also noting the UN prediction that climate change will increase the number of undernourished people worldwide by between 40m and 170m.
The Food Crisis in figures, as published by Oxfam, is quite an eye-opener.
- One in six of the world’s population is hungry, almost a billion people.
- 13 million children are born annually with intrauterine growth restriction meaning that stunting sets in even before children are born due to the hunger experienced by the mother.
- Between 50 and 60 % of all childhood deaths in the developing world are hunger related.
- The risk of death is 2.5 times higher for children with only mild malnutrition than it is for children who are adequately nourished.
- The proportion of overseas development assistance spent on agriculture has fallen from almost a fifth in 1980 to just 3 per cent today.
- Poor people are particularly vulnerable to changes in food prices with many spending up to 80 per cent of their income on food.
- Even before the recent crisis:
- Five million children under the age of 5 died every year of hunger related causes.
- 16,000 children died every day of hunger-related causes – one every five seconds.
Below is a short spot which Sean Penn recorded as an appeal for the World Food Program. It's very short, but very much to the point.