The Hungry Billion

Hunger has slipped from the rich world’s consciousness, with polls showing that developed nations now believe that the world’s biggest problems are terrorism and climate change. Yet malnutrition in mothers and their young children will claim 3.5 million lives this year, and many more face physical and mental impairment.

COPENHAGEN – Hunger has slipped from the rich world’s consciousness. Televised images of Third World children with distended bellies no longer shock viewers. Polls show that developed nations now believe that the world’s biggest problems are terrorism and climate change. 

Yet malnutrition in mothers and their young children will claim 3.5 million lives this year. Global food stocks are at historic lows. Food riots have erupted in West Africa and South Asia. Progress is distressingly slow on the United Nations’ goal of halving the number of hungry people by 2015. Those suffering the most are the billion people who survive on a dollar or less a day.

Individual tragedy and national hardship go hand in hand. Shortened lives mean less economic output and income. Hunger leaves people more susceptible to disease, requiring more health-care spending. Those who survive the effects of malnutrition are less productive; physical and mental impairment means children benefit less from education.

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