There are more than 1.02 billion hungry people in the world
What is food security?
Food security was defined in the 1974 World Food Summit as: "Availability at all times of adequate world food supplies of basic foodstuffs to sustain a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices".
In 1983 the FAO expanded its concept of food security to include securing access by vulnerable people to available supplies of food, implying that attention should be balanced between the demand and supply side of the food security equation: "Ensuring that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food that they need".
The 1996 World Food Summit adopted a still more complex definition: "Food security, at the individual, household, national, regional and global levels [is achieved] when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".
This definition was again refined in "The State of Food Insecurity 2001": "Food security [is] a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life".
What is hunger?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1971 edition), Hunger is a term which has three meanings:
- The uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite, also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
- The want or scarcity of food in a country
- A strong desire or craving
What is malnutrition?
According to the Medical Encyclopaedia, Malnutrition is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.
There are two basic types of malnutrition. The first is protein-energy malnutrition - the lack of enough protein and calories which all basic food groups provide. It is this definition of malnutrition that is used when world hunger is discussed. The second is micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency. This is not the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is discussed, however it is significant.
Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is the most lethal form of malnutrition/hunger. It is characterised by a lack of calories and protein. Food is converted into energy by humans, and the energy contained in food is measured by calories. Protein is necessary for key body functions including provision of essential amino acids and development and maintenance of muscles.
Source: Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia
The relationship between food security and conflict
Food insecurity presents a threat to local and global security that cannot be ignored. The most obvious way armed conflict leads to hunger is through the deliberate use of food as a weapon. Food shortages and deaths from famine occur where sieges deliberately destroy food supplies and productive capacities, with the aim of starving an opposing population into submission. Siege tactics include prevention or diversion of food aid from intended beneficiaries to the military and their supporters; destruction of food stocks, livestock, and other assets in food-producing regions; blockades of food supplies; economic sanctions; and donor policies that selectively withhold food aid.
Conflict also reduces farming populations through direct attacks, terror, enslavement, forced recruitment, malnutrition, illness, and death. As farming populations flee, decline, or stop farming out of fear, production falls and spreading food deficits over wider areas. Acts such as land-mining and the poisoning of wells have long-term effects on food production and other economic activities. Conflict-linked food shortages set the stage for years of food emergencies, even after fighting ceases.
Food Insecurity is also an important factor in domestic insurgencies. The lack of access to food, and hunger itself provides a legitimate grievance for populations against governing authorities. This is a causal factor for insurgencies that can topple the hegemony of the state. Thus, from a security perspective, it is essential that governments address this issue in order to avoid social conflict.
Examples of recognised food security policies from around the world
The Bolsa Familia, Brazil
The Bolsa Familia (Family Allowance) is a part of the Brazilian governmental welfare program Fome Zero (Zero Huner). The Bolsa Familia provides financial aid to poor families on condition that their children attend school and are vaccinated. The program attempts to both reduce short-term poverty by direct cash transfers and fight long-term poverty by increasing human capital among the poor through conditional cash transfers. It reaches 11 million families, more than 46 million people, a major portion of the country's low-income population. Poor families with children receive an average of R$70.00 (about US$35) in direct transfers. In return, they commit to keeping their children in school and taking them for regular health checks. The Bolsa Familia has two important results: it helps to reduce current poverty, and encouraging families to invest in their children, thus breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty transmission.
Bolsa Familia: Changing the Lives of Millions in Brazil
Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS), South Africa
In order to address the grave food security crisis in South Africa, in 2000 the South African Government launched an updated national food security strategy to streamline, harmonise and integrate diverse food security sub-programmes in South Africa into the Integrated Food Security Strategy (IFSS). The vision of the Integrated Food Security Strategy is to "attain universal physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food by all South African at all times to meet their dietary and food preferences for an active and healthy life". This statement is also a definition of food security by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
Progresa-Oportunidades is a government social assistance program in Mexico founded in 2002, based on a previous program called Progresa, created in 1997. This program is the first nationwide controlled randomized anti-poverty program in a developing country to offer "conditional cash transfers" in order to promote incentives for positive behaviour. The program offers cash transfers to poor families conditional on their participation in health and nutrition programs (such as prenatal care, well-baby care and immunization, nutrition monitoring and supplementation, and preventive checkups), along with incentives to promote childrens school attendance.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), U.S.
The United States Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) historically and commonly known as the Food Stamp Program is a federal-assistance program that provides assistance to low- and no-income people and families living in the U.S. Though the program is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, benefits are distributed by the individual U.S. states. The number of Americans receiving food stamps reached 35 million in June 2009, the highest number since the program began in 1962, with an average monthly benefit of $133.12 per person.
National Food Policy (NFP), Bangladesh
The National Food Policy of Bangladesh is intended to ensure adequate and stable supply of safe and nutritious food, enhance purchasing power of the people for increased food accessibility and ensure adequate nutrition food for all (especially women and children). Following the 1999 Development Forum held in Paris which emphasized the need to adopt a comprehensive food security policy, the Government of Bangladesh established a Task Force involving nine ministries. Based on the recommendations of this Task Force, an initial draft of the NFP was produced in 2001. After consultations with a Parliamentary Sub-Committee on food, and with support from FAO, the draft went through a series of revisions between 2002 and 2004. The National Food Policy was finally approved by the Cabinet on 14 August 2006.
Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (ADLI), Ethiopia
The Agricultural Development Led Industrialization (ADLI) strategy is the Government's overarching policy response to Ethiopia's food security and agricultural productivity challenge. The strategy promotes the use of labour-intensive methods to increase output and productivity by applying chemical inputs, diversifying production, utilizing improved agricultural technologies. ADLI also emphasizes the importance of distinguishing agro-ecological zones and tailors strategies as well as interventions for optimal development outcomes. This distinction guides the differentiated interventions needed to promote pro-poor and integrated growth. The instruments to achieve this include: focused infrastructure investments, especially in roads, telecommunications and connection to the electricity grid; intensified efforts to strengthen the flow of development finance, and administrative capacity in selected areas; and, agro-processing, tourism, and health interventions for control of tsetse fly and malaria in low-lying areas.
National Food Security Act, India
On June 4, 2009 India President Pratibha Patil decreed that a National Food Security Act would be formulated whereby each family below the poverty line (BPL) would be entitled by law to receive 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3/- per kg.
Ensuring food security during conflicts
Wars exacerbate the conditions leading to malnutrition. The obstruction of services for children, such as preventive immunization, leads to poor immune system resistance for example. The risk of infection is aggravated by population movements and the concentration of people in refugee camps. During conflicts, economic and social networks are shattered. To cope, people collect wild foods, look for credit, sell their labour and reduce consumption. When men leave, become disabled or die, women face heavy burdens of protecting the family and providing income and food, which may jeopardize their health. Mothers have little time for breastfeeding, preparing foods or providing care to children.
Emergency feeding programmes are recommended as part of a relief or rehabilitation programmes aimed at strengthening the resilience of households and rural economies. Given the long-term nature of most conflict situations and assistance programmes implemented during times of conflict, these programmes should adopt a developmental approach: Relief measures should be linked with development objectives such as the rehabilitation of agriculture to enhance local capacities and improve household food security.
Child nutrition and food security during armed conflicts
Some Global Philanthropic Foundations fighting hunger