The purpose of this paper is to present a detailed discussion on hunger. The discussion will begin with an overview of the state of hunger in various parts of the world. This will include the prevalence and causes of hunger in different regions. The overview will be followed by a discussion on why hunger is a social problem. The discussion will focus on three areas namely, social order, poverty, and health. The last part of the paper will focus on social change. It will highlight what has been done and the strategies that should be used to alleviate hunger.
Hunger refers to the painful sensation that individuals experience whenever they need food. At the global level, hunger refers to the scarcity of food in various parts of the world (Sasson 1-16). A country is considered to be facing hunger if its citizens cannot access adequate food consistently due to lack of money or the resources that are needed for food production.
Hunger continues to be one of the major social problems globally despite the efforts that have been made to eliminate it in the last five decades. Reducing global poverty and hunger by 50% has been one of the most important development targets of the UN since 1991. Although the level of poverty has significantly reduced, nearly 925 million people globally are still facing hunger (Sasson 1-16). This represents nearly 13.2% of the global population.
The Asia-Pacific region is the most affected since it has nearly 578 million people who cannot access adequate food. Sub-Sahara Africa is the second most affected region with nearly 239 million people who are facing hunger. However, only 19 million people are facing hunger in developed countries (Sasson 1-16). This means that the poor who reside in developing countries are the most affected by hunger.
Climate change is one of the major factors that cause hunger. The level of rainfall reduced in nearly all regions in the last 10 decades. By contrast, global temperature has been increasing. The resulting water insufficiency has led to inadequate food production, especially, in developing countries where irrigation technologies are inaccessible (Tonukari and Omotor 13-23). Limited availability of land has also reduced food production. Rapid population growth has resulted into increased use of land for settlement and industrial activities at the expense of food production. Pests and diseases have also increased hunger by destroying food crops in farms.
Subjective Presentation: Why Hunger is a Social Problem
Hunger is a social problem because it is one of the major threats to peace in every society. This argument is in line with the fact that hunger is a major cause of violent confrontations. For instance, food riots were an important aspect of the French Revolution. During the 2008/2009 financial crisis, global food prices rose significantly. As a result, thousands of people in both developed and developing countries were not able to access adequate food.
This led to violent food riots in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Cameroon, and Egypt (Sasson 1-16). Citizens of countries with severe food shortage are likely to embark on criminal activities such as robbery and extortion to access adequate funds to buy food. Hunger is also the main cause of resource-based conflicts in poor countries. For instance, pastoralists and peasants often fight for limited land and water resources to avoid starvation.
At the international level, hunger increases tension between net food exporting and importing countries (Schiffman 1-4). During periods of food shortage, major suppliers of commodities such as rice and wheat often restrict exports to ensure food security. This leads to criminal activities such as smuggling substandard food products from abroad. Countries with large populations and dry lands such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan have focused on purchasing farmland in developing countries in Africa to increase their food supply. This has led to violent resistance since Africans believe that land acquisition by foreigners will expose them to high levels of poverty and hunger.
Hunger also causes tensions between the rich and the poor. One of the major causes of high global food prices is speculation by investment firms that are owned by the rich. Speculators usually create artificial food shortages in order to make high profits by increasing prices. This has led to protests against companies such as Goldman Sachs and Barclays (Schiffman 1-4). Moreover, human rights activists continue to resist the use of corn to produce biofuels because it leads to food shortages.
Hunger is also a social problem because of its severe health effects. This argument is based on the fact that limited access to food is a leading cause of malnutrition (Neff et al. 282-314). People who are not able to access high quality food have to eat what is available irrespective of its nutritional value. Individuals who eat foods that lack essential nutrients such as proteins and vitamins have poor immune systems.
This leads to high morbidity and mortality rates among vulnerable groups such as children and women. Poor health is a major social problem because it interferes with individuals’ ability to perform their duties. For instance, malnourished children often underperform in school due to poor brain development during childhood. Moreover, physically weak parents cannot engage in economic activities in order to provide their children with all the necessities of life.
Hunger can also cause death directly and indirectly. People have died in countries such as China, India, and Somalia due to inability to find anything to eat for several days. Hunger is one of the main factors that motivate individuals to eat contaminated food. For instance, pastoralist communities in African countries such as Kenya and Tanzania usually eat sick cows or dead animals to avoid hunger during droughts. This leads to premature deaths.
Hunger also increases the prevalence of lifestyle diseases such as obesity and high blood pressure (Neff et al. 282-314). Governments in both developed and developing countries have focused on promoting production of cheap foods to reduce hunger. Food policies focus on reducing the prices of essential commodities such as corn, rice, and soybean. As a result, cheap high-energy ingredients are increasingly being used to produce processed food. By contrast, the prices of healthy foods have gone up tremendously. This has led to increased consumption of unhealthy foods, thereby increasing diseases such as obesity and cancer in countries such as the US.
Hunger is also a social problem because it increases poverty. This argument is supported by the fact that food expenditure accounts for a significant portion of household income in poor and developing countries. In nearly all countries, government interventions such as relief food programs and subsidies have to be used to protect citizens from extreme hunger during famines (Neff et al. 282-314). These interventions normally shift capital away from productive sectors of the economy, thereby increasing poverty. During famines, food prices tend to rise significantly. This means that households have to spend more to acquire a given amount of food. This reduces the level of savings and investment, which in turn leads to poverty. In poor countries, low-income households are forced to sell assets such as livestock and land to buy food when prices are very high. As a result, poverty increases in developing countries.
Several measures were taken in the last ten decades to reduce extreme hunger globally. To begin with, food assistance programs were established in virtually every country after World War II. The programs were run by national governments, which purchased food in large quantities during periods of glut and redistributed it during shortages (Neff et al. 282-314). The programs were expected to allow low-income households to avoid hunger by accessing subsidized food. However, they failed in most countries due to inadequate funding and mismanagement.
Developing and using advanced technologies to increase food production is another measure that has already been taken to eliminate hunger. Research has led to invention of machines and equipment that increase production of food crops. Moreover, crops that are resistant to draught, diseases, and pests have already been developed through gene modification (Tenente 1-25). Superior animal breeding and rearing technologies have also been developed.
These measures have had mixed results. In developed countries, mechanized farming has significantly increased food production. However, mechanization has led to environmental degradation through pollution of air, soil, and water bodies. Developing countries, on the other hand, have not been able to adopt mechanized farming due to financial constraints. Genetically modified foods have also been rejected in several countries because they are associated with diseases such as cancer.
Currently, the fight against hunger focuses on sustainable food production. Sustainability means producing adequate food without polluting the environment. The rationale of this strategy is that irrigation and mechanization can only be effective if the environment is conserved. For instance, water scarcity has made irrigation nearly impossible in most countries. Soil degradation has also made fertilizers less effective in improving crop yield (Parry 1-44).
Thus, organic farming is increasingly being adopted in various countries to ensure sustainability. This involves using manure and organic pesticides to protect the environment. The drawbacks of organic farming are high production costs and lack of scalability. For instance, substituting factory poultry farms with free-range chicken rearing system has been impossible due to limited land.
Promoting competition in the global food market is another strategy that is currently being used to alleviate hunger. It involves removing barriers to trade such as export quotas and import tariffs. Agricultural subsidies are also being eliminated to allow imported food products to compete with local ones effectively. Removal of trade barriers has increased food supply, especially, in net food importing countries. However, elimination of farm subsidies is increasing hunger since it is a disincentive to food producers (Sasson 1-16). Trade liberalization also exposes countries to hunger by increasing their reliance on food imports.
Given the failures of the past and current strategies, the following measures should be taken to eradicate hunger. First, food quality must be considered as an important element of sustainability. Producing adequate quantities of low quality food products is not a solution since hunger will still be experienced in terms of malnutrition. This means that food security policies must focus on improving quality and quantity in a sustainable manner to reduce hunger (Obisesan and Omonona 474-480).
Second, efficiency should be improved in the food supply chain at the national and international level. Efficiency improvements should focus on reducing the cost and time required to transport food from production centers to the market. This will ensure consistent supply of high quality food in all parts of the world.
Third, poverty has to be reduced in order to eradicate hunger (Ukoha, Orebiyi and Ohajianya 66-74). Lack of affordability is one of the main factors that limit access to food. Economic and social policies should focus on increasing household income levels to improve access to food. Finally, the food market should be regulated effectively to reduce hunger. Regulation should eliminate speculative activities that often result into unnecessary food shortages and high prices. This will make food affordable, thereby reducing hunger.
Hunger is one of the major challenges in the world because it affects a large number of people. Hunger is a social problem because it causes disorder in the society. Peaceful co-existence is difficult to achieve when people are hungry since everyone must fight for the available food in order to survive. Hunger is also associated with increased morbidity and mortality rates. It also increases poverty. In this respect, national governments should promote production of adequate and high quality food in order to alleviate hunger. Poverty and the cost of production should also be reduced to enhance access to food.
Neff, Roni, et al. “Food Systems and Public Health Disparities.” Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition 4.3 (2009): 282-314. Print.
Obisesan, Anthony and Ben Omonona. “The Impact of RETP Technology Adoption on Food Security Status of Cassava-Farming Households in Southwest Nigeria.” Greener Journal of Agricultural Sciences 3.6 (2013): 474-480. Print.
Parry, Martin. “The Implications of Climate Change for Crop Yields, Global Food Supply, and Risk of Hunger.” Journal of Semi-Arid Tropics Agricultural Research 4.1 (2007): 1-44. Print.
Sasson, Albert. “Food Security for Africa: An Urgent Global Challenge.” Agriculture and Food Security 1.2 (2012): 1-16. Print.
Schiffman, Richard. “Hunger, Food Security, and the Arfican land Grab.” Ethics and International Affairs 1.1 (2013): 1-4. Print.
Tenente, Frank. “Feeding the World One Seed at a Time: A Practical Alternative for Solving World Hunger.” Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights 5.2 (2007): 1-25. Print.
Tonukari, Nyerhovwo and Douglason Omotor. “Biotechnology and Food Security in Developing Countries.” Biotechnology and Molecular Biology Reviews 5.1 (2010): 13-23. Print.
Ukoha, Anthony, et al. “The Level of Food Security/ Insecurity by Gender in Selected land Tenure Systsmes among Cassa-based Farmers in Abia State, Nigeria: A Comparative Analysis.” International Journal of Agricultural and Food Science 1.4 (2011): 66-74. Print.