Hunger In Developing Countries

Food is a primary need for all human beings. It is accepted as a merit good in economics, and essential supplement in politics, and can be considered a basic human right, since it is essential for a healthy life. Yet, millions continue to suffer from lack of enough to eat, and resultant malnutrition and suffering. At a time, when the world is struggling with excessive surplus of capital and increasing stocks of food grains, hunger is a matter of shame for all
Hunger in Developing Countries
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The greatest irony of hunger in developing countries lies in its coexistence with rising piles of grain stocks, suggesting that it is not food shortages per se that lead to this menace. In many cases, it is the surplus labor that drags down the wages to below subsistence levels, and in many cases inflation and hoarding also contribute significantly.


Hunger is Not a Result of Food Shortage

The primary cause of hunger in most developing countries is not shortage of food grains!

Maintaining growth of food grains production with the rising needs of growing population is certainly a very important challenge, which

many developing countries are not able to handle. However, the relative relevance of the shortage of food grain production and the lack of purchasing power in hunger can be best understood by a great irony. The inability of the people to purchase these food grains today is the biggest insurance against food grain shortages in the world!

The Irony of Hunger Coexisting with Large Food Grain Stocks

With the exceptions of famines which can cause episodic local food shortages, worsened to a great extent by the hoarding indulged in by local traders, most of the hunger in developing countries co-exists along with unutilized food grain stocks. People want to buy and sellers want to sell, but there is not enough paying capacity with the people, who earn a wage that is just enough to survive, not sufficient to fully get rid of hunger.

Such low wages, which never rise above subsistence levels are a result of oversupply of unskilled labor. Most of these countries thrived on agriculture till the last century, and with their smaller populations, agrarian economy was enough to take care of them. However, with falling death rates and resultant population growth, the work force swelled. Larger size of families reduced saving and capital formation further, and as workers competed with each other for the rare jobs available, the wages fell, till they could fall no further below the subsistence level. This created a combination of unemployment and underemployment along with very low wages, which has been and continues to be the bane of the third world.

A Billion Victims of Hunger & Under Nutrition

More than a billion people today thrive on less than two dollars a day. Within a family, the children with their higher needs for nutrition are the worst sufferer. Malnutrition leads to reduction in immunity and more frequent infections, creating a vicious cycle of malnutrition, disease and incapacitation that sustains poverty. For most

poor families, illness of a member is the most debilitating event in their life, which wipes out all their savings, displaces them, and physically, mentally and emotionally tortures them. In most developing countries, infant and maternal mortality are also higher, thereby consuming further precious resources of the community.

Malnutrition is also a great impediment in mental development of children, and the incapacitation imposed by it hampers the ability of the next generation to fully cope up with the challenges. It also affects the learning abilities, thereby having a negative impact on the next generation as well.

Another great impact of hunger is that the people, even in democracies, become indifferent to the issues involving the fate of the nation. After all, a person with half empty stomach, a dying parent and a sick child can hardly be expected to burden himself with the fiscal policy followed by the government, even if, by any miracle, he could be made to understand and appreciate the same! It is no surprise then that this hunger becomes the greatest reason for indifference of people towards national development, and this indifference perpetuates poverty.

There are no ready made easy to implement solutions for removing this poverty and hunger. It needs to be remembered that the real issue is economic development and creation of jobs, which need investment and enterprise. Other than that all else is rhetoric and carries little meaning. External aid is often over-emphasized as a solution and has probably negligible impact in the long run. Transfer of technology and skills are very useful, but are best achieved not be way of external aid projects, but by external investments.

Economic Development is the Only Solution

The real fight against hunger will have to be fought by the people and the governments themselves in those countries. Where the rest of the world can actually help is primarily by ensuring that these developing economies are not discriminated against by political groups in developed countries, and that wars and violent conflicts involving them are somehow avoided. Good governance, economic development and transfer of skills, these will be the three stepping stones for developing countries in their fight to defeat hunger.

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