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June 9, 2010

The Root Cause of Hunger: Day 5 of the 7th GHC

The topic during the fifth day at the 7th Global health course in Tampere, Finland focused mainly on the problem of malnutrition, specifically undernutrition which is common among low and middle income countries. During the lecture on nutrition, the topic was presented basically with an introduction to malnutrition and the different clinical types of this illness and its epidemiology: basically the What, Who, Where, When, How, Why and So What of Undernutrition. Among the many causes identified for malnutrition is, other than the biological conditions such as illnesses and the like, the non-medical conditions such as the various social determinants of health mentioned in the previous week. I found it true when the lecturer summed up his topic on undernutrition emphasizing that the cause of this problem is fundamentally political.


The social pathogenesis of undernutrition is basically the inability of food source to come into the environment, from which there is also inability of food in the environment to come into the home, from which there is inability of food to come into the person's mouth living in that home.

Knowing therefore these non-medical causes, specific interventions can be made. One would start wondering how can an environment be deprived of such food source? How could one home be deprived of access to food in the environment? How could one mouth be deprived of consuming such food brought into the home?

When one deals with under-nutrition, he cannot help but also touch on the topic of agrarian reform, women's rights to land ownership and education, food security and production, economic policies both within a nation and among nations and the issue on genetically-modified organisms in relation to increasing food yield.

Climate change is also an issue and how it is affecting the way people farm or vice-versa. During the group work, we discussed each country's nutritional situation and our proposed interventions.

One of the issues identified was the seemingly growing population especially among third world countries like the Philippines. Thus, some of the participants were suggesting contraception as part of the intervention in order to decrease fertility rate.

I am wary of the overpopulation as being a factor in undernutrition or hunger for that matter. It is the contention of many that at present, there is too many mouths to feed thus there is seemingly a decrease in food supply for everyone leading therefore to inaccessibility to food and nutrition therefore leading to under-nutrition.

If we are to consider population density as a cause of hunger or undernutrition, I feel that there is no sense therefore why some very populated nations are suffering minimal if not no incidence of hunger or low rate of undernutrition compared with less populated nations?

Take South Korea for example where there is so much population per acre of agricultural land. Compare South Korea with let's say Bangladesh where there is enough agricultural land per population. Yet, Bangladesh is among the Asian countries suffering from under-nutrition and incidence of hunger.

"In the Central America and Caribbean region, for example, Trinidad and Tobago show the lowest percentage of stunted children under five and Guatemala the highest (almost twelve times greater); yet Trinidad and Tobago's cropland per person-a key indicator of human population density-is less than half that of Guatemala's. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy-one indicator of nutrition-eleven years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of northern countries." (GlobalIssues.Org)

The lecturer himself also mentioned that if farmed properly and with the right government support, the present agricultural lands in the world is enough to feed the present population of 6 Billion People.

The Netherlands for example has very little land per person and yet it has become one of the leading exporters of food in the world.

So the issue of overpopulation, of too many people, as a cause for hunger does not actually hold water.

Another identified reason is maybe the increase in population growth. It has been observed that in countries where there is high increase in population growth also exist high rates of undernutrition or hunger. These countries are usually in Asia and Africa and some parts of South America.

Unfortunately, there is no study that can even show a correlation between population growth and incidence of hunger or undernutrition. There are studies though that say that the poorest countries and those middle income countries whose 20% of their population have low incomes had less to eat. In other words, there is inequity in the distribution of what is apparently abundance in food.

Large quantities of food for consumption is basically concentrated only to those countries who can afford to buy these food. And those who cannot afford to buy these food are the countries who suffer under-nutrition. These are the same countries who practically produce these food and from whom these richer countries buy their produce at a cheaper price and sell them for a huge profit. Thus, the farmer who planted rice and sold it at a low price may not be able to afford to buy his own rice for his family's consumption.

The contention therefore that countries with faster population growth are countries that will have higher rates of under-nutrition is a fallacious conclusion. After all, correlation does not actually mean causality.

In other words, poverty and inequality cause hunger.

Perhaps the next question would be what caused the poverty? What caused the inequality? Again, there are many things to consider here.

For me, it boils down basically to one thing. The root cause of hunger, and therefore, under-nutrition, is greed.

Avarice brings about disparity in all fields of life: in politics, there is greed for power; in economy, there is greed for wealth; in religion, there is greed for influence;

For as long as man cannot tame his greed and satisfy his insatiable nature, there will always be poverty. There will always be inequality. There will always be hunger.



1 violent reactions. React Here.:

Gemma| My Dailies said...

.. i agree, sad to know, but that's the reality of life :(

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