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Hunger costs poor countries $450 billion a year: ActionAid 

15 September 2010 10:57:52 nm

Hunger costs poor countries $450 billion a year: ActionAid


A new report by ActionAid has revealed that hunger could be costing poor nations $450 billion a year -- more than ten times the amount needed to halve hunger by 2015 and meet Millennium Development Goal One.

ActionAid's report ‘Who's Really Fighting Hunger?,’ which shows the real dates countries will meet MDG1 and scores nations on their efforts to fight hunger, is released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN in New York to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

ActionAid's CEO Joanna Kerr said: "Fighting hunger now will be ten times cheaper than ignoring it. Every year reduced worker productivity, poor health and lost education costs poor countries billions."

"And the cost is not just financial.  If governments don't act now over a million more children could die by 2015 and half of Africa won't have enough food in ten years."

"Recent food riots are a sharp reminder that poor countries cannot rely on unstable global food markets. Investing in local farms where the world's hungry live is the best way to avert another food crisis."

ActionAid's report reveals that 20 out of 28 poor nations are off track to halving hunger by 2015 and 12 of these are going backwards, despite UN claims that the world is on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goal.  If China, the most successful growing economy is removed from the scoring, the percentage of hungry people in the world is the same as when the goals were set two decades ago.

DR Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Lesotho rank bottom on the score card. But surprisingly not just the poorest, war-torn or disaster-struck countries rank low. Despite a radical and rapid increase in India's economy, drastic cuts in agriculture and support to small farms, means nearly half of the country's children are malnourished and one in five of the population is hungry.

ActionAid says the hunger goal is going backwards globally largely because of a lack of aid to agriculture and rural development, few legal rights to food in poor nations and little or no support services to help farming communities when harvests fail.

Brazil, China, Ghana, Malawi and Vietnam, who top ActionAid's scorecard slashed hunger by dramatically scaling-up investment in small farms and introducing social protection schemes such as public works employment, cash transfers, food rations, and free school meals. Malawi has reduced the number of people living on food handouts from 1.5 million to 150,000 in just five years. Brazil has halved the number of underweight children in less than 10 years.  China will meet its hunger goal five years early.

Rich nations also scored. Luxembourg, France, Spain, Sweden and Canada who pledged agricultural aid to help fight the 2009 food crisis scored top as donor nations. Portugal, Korea, Greece, New Zealand and Austria ranked bottom. G8 nations pledged $22 billion in 2009 to fight hunger, yet ActionAid estimates $14 billion of this is in fact old aid promises repackaged and it is still unclear when or how the money will be spent.

ActionAid's Africa Hunger Free Coordinator Henry Malumo said:

"Times are hard and budgets are tight, so now more than ever it's important for governments to invest in the right places. Rich countries must stop pulling statistical tricks and show us how and when the money they have promised will reach the people who need it most. Malawi and Ghana are shining examples of how supporting small scale farmers is key to halving hunger. With only five years left and a billion people hungry it's critical the world follow their example”.