World Food Day 2011: Grounds for hope

Let’s refresh our memories: wasn’t the first of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the international community of states in 2000 a resolution to eliminate hunger from the world?

No – it was merely an undertaking to halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015. And even this “disgracefully feeble target” will not be met, as Klaus von Grebmer, Communications Director at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), reported on 11 October 2011 in Berlin. With Welthungerhilfe, the Institute traditionally uses the week of World Food Day (16 October) to draw attention to the pressing problem of food insecurity, using the Global Hunger Index (see Box).  

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is based on three indicators: the proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population, the prevalence of underweight children under the age of five and the mortality rate of children under the age of five. While improvement has been achieved on all three indicators since 1990, the situation remains serious. The position in the Horn of Africa shows just how fragile food security is: when chronic malnourishment is accompanied by military conflict, bad governance and extreme weather events, an acute crisis is not far away. And if – as is usual in the developing countries – people are already having to spend more than two-thirds of their income on food, even the smallest rise in food prices has catastrophic consequences, as Bärbel Dieckmann, president of Welthungerhilfe, pointed out in Berlin. She therefore strongly supports attempts to tackle the causes of marked swings in agricultural prices (see box). Looking at the GHI map, things seem simple: violent conflict almost always results in “red” status, while good governance is the best guarantee of “green”. In addition, countries that introduce social assistance programmes and income transfers (Brazil, Mexico) and promote agriculture (Ghana) are able to rise quickly up the index ranking. To provide the necessary external assistance the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development has set up a new Task Force, which will assume responsibility for all development-policy aspects of rural development and food security. The Ministry states that it allocates some 700 million euros – around 11 percent of its budget – to these areas.        

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