The Hunger Game

Poverty and inequality as underlying causes of hunger in Nepal.

Oct. 17, 2022, 10:51 a.m.

According to the World Food Program- conflict, Covid-19, the climate crisis and rising food prices have combined in 2022 to create jeopardy for up to 828 million hungry people across the world.

This seismic hunger crisis has been caused by a deadly combination of conflicts, climate shocks, Covid-19 and high food prices.

Conflict is still the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world's hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence. Events unfolding in Ukraine are further proof of how conflict feeds hunger, forcing people out of their homes and wiping out their sources of income. Climate shocks destroy lives, crops and livelihoods, and undermine people’s ability to feed themselves. The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are driving hunger to unprecedented levels. Costs for operating food support program and food prices have increased in unpreceded manner are also at an all-time high.

Hunger is one of the world's major problems and, therefore, one of its most important challenges. Hunger and undernourishment form a vicious circle, which is often "passed on" from generation to generation.

As per WFP report, every year hunger kills 9 million people. Tens of millions of people in more than 40 countries are on the brink of famine. It says 6.6 billion dollars would feed 43 million people for one year.

As the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI) report shows, the global hunger situation is grim. The overlapping crises facing the world are exposing the failures of food systems, from global to local, and highlighting the vulnerability of populations around the world to hunger.

In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Nepal ranks 81st out of the 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores. With a score of 19.1, Nepal has a level of hunger that is moderate.

Nepal's neighboting countries Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar have been ranked 99, 64, 84, and 71 respectively.

Hunger is serious in both South Asia (where hunger is highest) and Africa South of the Sahara (where hunger is second highest). South Asia has the highest child stunting rate and by far the highest child wasting rate of any world region.

Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Chile, China and Croatia are the top five countries in GHI 2022. And Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Central African Republic and Yemen are the countries ranked at the bottom of the index.

In Nepal, stunting rates range from 22.6 and 22.9 percent, respectively, in Gandaki and Bagmati provinces in the central region of the country to more than double that, at 47.8 percent, in Karnali province in the west of the country. Karnali, along with Sudurpashchim, Lumbini, and Madhesh provinces, where one-third or more of children are stunted, are the provinces with the highest Multidimensional Poverty Index values. Other explanations for the high levels of child under nutrition in these provinces include difficult geographical terrain, poor infrastructure and transportation facilities, food insecurity, low overall socioeconomic development, and lack of access to healthcare services.

Poverty and inequality as underlying causes of hunger in Nepal. One in four people in Nepal lives below the national poverty line. Nepal’s vulnerability to high food prices, especially in remote mountain areas, drives hunger In Nepal, approximately 5 million people are undernourished. 70 percent of the population work in the land for a living and agriculture accounts for more than a third of the country’s economic output. Agricultural production is not keeping pace with population growth - and frequent natural disasters are a constant threat to livelihoods.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, famine is declared when malnutrition is widespread, and when people have started dying of starvation through lack of access to sufficient, nutritious food. Acute food insecurity occurrs when:

At least 20% of households in an area face extreme food shortage with a limited ability to cope; and the prevalence of acute malnutrition in children exceeds 30%; and the death rate exceeds two people per 10,000 people per day.

The Great Famine also known as the Great Hunger, the Famine (mostly within Ireland) or the Irish Potato Famine (mostly outside Ireland) was a period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland from 1845 to 1849, which constituted a historical social crisis which had a major impact on Irish society and history as a whole. During the Great Hunger, roughly a million people died and more than a million fled the country, causing the country's population to fall by 20–25%, in some towns falling as much as 67% between 1841 and 1871.

Of all the food produced in the world, one third is wasted or lost – 33 percent.  How to reduce wasteage of food by managing and distributing to needy prople has been a challenge to organisations engaged in reducing food wastages.

 After the Millennium Development Goals expired in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) became key objectives to shape the world's response to development challenges such as hunger. In particular Goal 2Zero Hunger sets globally agreed targets to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The objective of SDG 2 is to "end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture" by 2030. SDG2 recognizes that dealing with hunger is not only based on increasing food production but also on proper markets, access to land and technology and increased and efficient incomes for farmers.

As Nepal shows its improving status in world hunger index and poverty reduction but remains a challenge in social and income inequalities.

Its intervention to improve children’s health and to reduce child mortality has raised children’s nutritional status.

Although some agricultural interventions have helped improve Nepal’s food security and nutrition, more support and resources for farmers are needed.

Finally, it is expected that Nepal’s efforts to combat hunger would benefit from social sector investments that aim to improve the diets of young children, eliminate child marriage, promote gender equality, empower marginalized and excluded groups, establish a high-quality comprehensive health care system, and provide better-quality education for all.

(Shrestha is a former Under Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, Nepal and associated with the UNDP Africa)

Hari New Photo.jpg

Hari Prasad Shrestha

He worked under Ministry of Finance, Nepal as Under Secretary and has been associated with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Sierra Leone and South Sudan and UNMISS.

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