Dec 7, 2009
On October 14, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that more than a billion people in the world suffer from chronic hunger – that is one-sixth of the world’s population. This is an increase of 346 million people since the dramatic food price spikes of 2008.
Most of the hungry people live in poor countries: 642 million in Asia and the Pacific, 265 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 42 million in the Middle-East and North Africa. Almost one out of every three people on the entire continent of Africa does not get enough to eat.
Alongside these one billion hungry people are two billion more who are malnourished, out of the world’s current population of six and a half billion. Hunger is permanent in capitalism, even during so-called “ordinary times.” Over the last decade the number of malnourished people has continuously increased. For example, in Central Africa the undernourished part of the population passed 36% at the beginning of the 90's, reaching 56% a decade later.
But in just one year, 2008 to 2009, 105 million additional people were brutally forced into hunger. All this is due to the financial crisis of last autumn, which was preceded by a food crisis. Food prices shot up around the world, brought on by insane speculation. The price of rice shot up 54% in the first month of 2008, to give only one example. Prices have fallen a bit since, but they are still 24% higher than they were in 2006. In Latin America and the Caribbean, food prices have risen 25% or more in the past two years.
These prices rose because the capitalists speculate on rice, corn, and wheat, just like they do with oil. Moreover, they will destroy tons of food in order to keep prices at inflated levels.
Enough food is produced to feed the entire world’s population. Food production increased 2% every year on average between 1980 and 2004. But this increase has not been used to improve the situation.
The director of a prominent research group said, “Chronic hunger is not due to a lack of food, rather it is the lack of resources of a whole part of the population that makes it impossible for them to have access to food.” So it’s not a lack of rice or wheat that explains the catastrophic food situation, but the fact that food, like everything under capitalism, is bought and sold.
If they have no money, people die of hunger next door to a warehouse full of food.