Hunger, crime against humanity

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According to the FAO’s State of Food World Food Insecurity 2013, there are around 842 million undernourished people in the world, and this figure is likely to be a gross underestimate of the real number of people who are suffering from hunger in the world. Even in rich countries such as the US and in Europe, there are tens of millions of people who do not have enough resources to eat sufficiently every day. Children are particularly hit by hunger: estimates are that 19 million children younger than 5 years had severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2011.

The number of deaths caused by hunger has been estimated between 15,000 and 20,000 every day, equivalent to the number of daily victims during World War II, and two thirds of the victims are children. This means that in less than 10 days, hunger kills as as many persons as the crisis in Syria since its beginning.

Every year, around 5 million people die because they do not eat sufficiently! Two thirds of them are children! And all this happens in a world of plenty, where food is in abundance and more than sufficient for everyone to eat properly!

This is not the result of an inevitable process. It is man-made: it is the result of deliberate policy choices, of the way the international food system is organised and of our leaders not allocating money where most lives could be saved.

Small farmers, who constitute the bulk of the hungry have been excluded from the so-called development programmes and from the services that are supposed to help them get out of poverty and hunger (extension, finance, education, health, etc.). Their rights are being violated (right to land, to water, to forests and to use freely plant and animal genetic resources) and they are thus being deprived from the resources indispensable for their survival and development, to the benefit to local elites or multinationals.

The adoption of the liberal economic model, first through the stabilisation and structural adjustment programmes in the 80s and 90s, and then through the rules imposed by the WTO, have put small farmers in non-industrial countries at a disadvantage: they have to compete with highly productive and subsidised farmers from rich countries and do not stand a chance to survive decently.

Hunger is also the result of a deliberate choice not to take the decisions that could eradicate it almost immediately. Estimates are that with around 2% of the world food production, which is abundant and more than sufficient today, and at a cost of less than $30 billion per annum, it would be possible to ensure access to adequate food to the entire world population. This cost is less than 0.2% of the world GDP, less than 2% of world military expenditure and about half of the estimated income of the tax on financial transactions implemented in the European Union countries. Spending this money would save lives and impact directly and positively on economic growth, as it would help enhance physical and intellectual capacity of the hungry and enable them to contribute to and benefit more from economic development.

Even in countries that have recognised the Right to Food, the situation has not significantly approved, demonstrating that passing a law is not enough to ensure appropriate action.

If we want change to occur and hunger to be really eliminated, we have to compel decision makers to act and put them in front of their responsibilities. If they do not respond, they should face the consequences.

Today, many crimes are recognised internationally as crimes against humanity, but not doing all that is possible to save fellow citizens from hunger, the greatest one of all, the one that makes the most victims, in millions every year, is not.

This has to change. Let’s ask the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take the steps for this to change now and for this crime to be recognised as a crime against humanity so that the tens of millions of people who risk to die from hunger in the coming 10 years can be saved.


If you want to have more details consult

  1. -on facts and figures on hunger

  2. -on hunger and exclusion

  3. -on the deprivation of rural communities of their right to access natural resources

  4. -on the causes of hunger

  5. -on solutions to eradicate hunger sustainably

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Last update:    April 2014

Tell Ban Ki-moon that hunger is a crime against humanity

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