- The world population currently stands at just over 7 billion
- There are 842 million people who do not have enough to eat
- 1.4 billion people live in poverty
- There is an expected population growth rate of 1.2%
Those are pretty alarming statistics and with ever increasing pressure on the planet’s resources, is it even possible to sustain these levels let alone improve the existence of nearly ¼ of the world’s population?
Organisations including Oxfam, Action Aid and CARE International are doing all they can to help solve the problem and assist countries and individuals to improve their standard of living, thereby reducing the high mortality rate.
Even if it was possible to relieve world poverty straight away and reduce the death rate; combined with the predicted population increase, would there be enough food for the extra 1,484,000,000 people?
Anyone remember the 2008 food crisis? It doesn’t take much to tip over the delicately balanced table of plenty. So given that our food consumption levels are controlled by market trends, cost of fuel and corporate profit, if 1 billion 484 million uninvited guests came knocking, I suspect the answer to my question would be ‘no’.
There has always been poverty, it’s nothing new; in the 16th century, the Poor Laws were introduced in England to try and solve the growing problem.
The 20th century saw more significant and meaningful help including the establishment of Oxfam in 1942, when a committee of people in Oxford organised food supplies to be sent to civilians in occupied Europe. They went on to raise awareness for Bangladesh, Ethiopia and other nations who struggled to sustain life. Comic Relief and Red Nose Day evolved from Oxfam’s work.
Since the Red Nose appeal was launched in 1985, it has raised over £750 million
The UN reports that child mortality in Bangladesh is down by more than 60% since 1990 and 88% of children are now immunised against measles, diphtheria and polio compared with just 1% in 1985. Worldwide there are 12,000 fewer deaths among children under 5 years old compared with 1990.
The Telegraph’s Geoffrey Lean said in March 2013 “… if current trends continue, dire poverty will have been eliminated within 20 years in countries like Bangladesh.”
But is the answer to raise huge sums of money? Surely this is merely masking not solving the problem. And if child mortality rates are reduced, how can the world feed these additional mouths?
The World Health Organisation has said “better health is central to human happiness and well-being. It makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer, are more productive and save more”.
But there are some who question the philosophy of helping developing nations; raising money to send food supplies and medical help is very commendable but as those children grow into adults and have more children, they too will need feeding. And as their country’s industry increases, will that in turn use more resources, create more pollution and thereby reduce what is available to all? There must come a point in time when the world simply cannot sustain any more people.
According to the World Hunger Organisation, despite the 70% population increase, the world produces enough food to feed everyone.
17% more calories per person are produced today compared with 30 years ago
The problems we now face are ‘man-made’ including climate change, ‘land-grabs’, food price hikes, intensive farming methods and conflict. It is these conditions that are maintaining the world’s poverty.
Climate change and global warming are high on the international agenda, although many nations have been accused of merely paying lip-service to the issue; but with sea temperatures rising, the ice caps melting and weather patterns changing, there can be little doubt the damage has already been done.
Land-grabs, intensive farming methods and food price hikes are all being driven by the large corporations, capitalists and governments who are destroying the possibility of self-sufficiency by developing vast prairie style farms, ironically very often to grow bio-fuels. But even when the food is harvested, some countries hoard food supplies to avoid disasters such as the 2008 food crisis.
The answer lies in global co-operation: stabilize populations, cease investment in bio-fuels if it is at the expense of food production, increase local food production (this would require the cessation of land-grabs and deforestation) resulting in decreased food miles and developing crops that cope with climate change.
Kofi Annan said “the biggest enemy of health in the developing world is poverty” but I say by far the biggest enemy to the world are the minority of mankind: the corporations, capitalists and governments who see financial opportunity and power at the expense of the majority.