If there is a universal human right to food, then why are people still starving?

Table of Contents

I. History of World Hunger
a. Past Events
i. Irish Potato Famine (1845-1851)
ii. Ukrainian Famine (1932-1933)
iii. Chinese Famine (1958-1961) iv. South Wallo, Ethiopia Famine (multiple)
b. Google Earth Tour
c. PSA

II. Causes of World Hunger
a. Natural
c. Social

III. People Affected by Hunger
a. Rural Poor
b. Urban Poor
c. Victims of Catastrophe
d. Farmers
e. Children
f. Women

IV. International Attempts to Help World Hunger
a. Efforts Being Made
b. Organizations Involved

V. Taking Action Against World Hunger
a. Reasons to Take Action
b. How to Take Action
c. My Civic Action Project

My mission is to diminish the problem of world hunger even if only by a little.kids_lined_up.jpg

I. History of World Hunger
Number and Percentage of Undernourished Persons
Number and Percentage
873 million (13%)
857 Million (14%)
825 Million (14%)
845 Million (16%)
853 Million (19%)
878 Million (24%)

a. Past Events

i. Irish Potato Famine (1845 to 1851)
Ireland’s population dropped from 8 million to 5 million between the years of 1845 and 1851. As a result of a fungus called Phytophthora, two million acres of potatoes died in 1845. The infestation of the potatoes went away, but came back in 1850. The decline of potatoes caused about 750,000 Irish to die because they were so dependent on the crop. People were unable to pay for their rent because they relied on the money they made from harvesting potatoes. In addition, some couldn’t afford to buy any food which forced them to eat rotten potatoes. [2]
ii. Ukrainian Famine (1932 to 1933)
In the Ukraine, Joseph Stalin upped the quota for grain procurement by forty-four percent. Until the quota was met, peasants were not aloud to have any grain. If a man, woman, or child was caught taking any amount of grain from a farm, they would often be executed or deported. Some people, if they didn’t appear to be starving, were suspected of having a secret supply of grain. It is estimated that between six million and seven million, or 20% of the population died as a result of starvation. [2]
iii. Chinese Famine (1958 to 1961)
The Great Famine of China was one of the largest recorded in history. An estimated 14 to 40 million people were killed, but many estimates are typically around 30 million. The reason the numbers were so vast was because information about the famine was concealed. A campaign called “The Great Leap Forward,” was in part to blame for the famine. The idea came from Chinese Communists who tried to push for manpower over machines. When small steel furnaces were built in villages, peasants had to leave their farms to work there. As a result, the country’s agriculture was disrupted, causing many people to starve to death. [2]
iv. South Wollo, Ethiopia Famine (multiple)
In the Area of South Wallo, a few famines have taken place. Those have been in the years 1962-1963, 1972-1974 and 1984-1985. In the 1984-1985 famine, about one million people died. About 785,000 people from South Wallo were suspected to be in need of food in the year 2000. Many peasants are put at risk of starving themselves when bad harvests come about and they have to pay back loans for seeds and fertilizer. Another added problem is that the land each person is given is hardly enough to survive on, and yet land is still being divided into even smaller portions. [2]
b. Google Earth Tour
Three places that suffer from world hunger are Tajikistan, Haiti, and Sierra Leone. They are mostly well known to the public, though information about their problems with world hunger may be unfamiliar to some.

c. PSA

II. Causes of World Hunger
It is often costly to produce, package, and ship food from places such as the U.S. to other places that need it. One solution to this is to produce food closer to where it is most needed so that the transportation cost would be lower. There are problems with this solution, however, because many countries that need food the most don’t have the means to produce it. Land plays a big factor in food production and often times it cannot be used because of things like extreme temperatures, bad soil, lack of water, or other things such as erosion. Though there is new technology that is allowing land—which would otherwise be useless, to be used—some of it is not being used efficiently. In addition, some methods of food production have better results than others. For example, beef takes about 10 to 20 calories (fuel, feed, etc) to produce 1 calorie of food. Compared to this is the more efficient production of U.S. corn which takes about 1 calorie of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. Even better than both of these methods is Asian rice for it takes about 1 calorie of energy to produce 20 calories of food. If a superior food production method is used—closer to where it is most needed—then people are more likely to be able to get it and the problem will eventually get smaller. [2]
b. Economic
Sometimes people don’t have enough money or any way of making money to buy food, even if it is available for purchase. Money doesn’t typically stay in one country or region for a long time, which hurts the economy and makes it difficult to fix problems such as hunger. Poor countries are spending most of their money on repaying other countries that they owe money to. This leaves poor countries in billions of dollars of debt which in turn disables them from spending money on their own country. There are many people who are asking developed countries to cancel the debt that poor countries owe them. Larger companies need to invest their money in poorer countries if they want the poorer countries to prosper. With little money, it is difficult for these countries to develop a strong economy, or even fix a weak one that they already have. [2]

c. SocialSome people in the world are denied the chance to make a living because of certain rules. For example, in India, men and women are not allowed to sit together, let alone work together. Women are supposed to take care of the house and the kids while men go to work. One organization that is encouraging women to take action against hunger is The Hunger Project ( Though women have the capability and drive to fix problems in their community, there are rules that prevent them from doing. [2]

III. People Affected by Hunger

Values as of 2009 [3]
Sub-Saharan Africa
Asia and the Pacific
Latin America and the Caribbean
Near East and North Africa
Developed Countries
# of People (millions)


Rural poor
A majority of people who are unable to eat live in rural poor areas. In that area, there is no electricity, no safe drinking water, and a low quality of sanitation, public health, and education services. A vast number of people who are able to eat farm their own crops. Oppositely, people who are unable to eat don’t own land, which forces them to work for others that do. Even still, working on a farm does not provide enough money to get by, and sometimes forces families to split up to earn a living when the work is seasonal. This makes it hard to set money aside for emergencies, or even get money in the first place. [2]
b. Urban Poor
People who live in urban poor areas typically produce little or no food. These people do not usually have the means to purchase food either. Also the population of this area is big and continues to rise. As a result, access to affordable food is become a bigger burden. [2]
c. Victims of Catastrophe
Those faced with destruction from earthquakes, droughts, floods and other natural disasters often have to leave their homes or farms. After faced with a disaster such as one of these, they are left with nothing. This means that they are unable to support themselves, and often leaves them to go hungry. [2]
d. Farmers
About half of the 75 percent of hungry people in developing countries are farming families. Typically, these families have small areas of land that are susceptible to natural disasters such as floods and droughts. Many people rely on farming, fishing, herding or resources from forests. [4]
e. Children
Chronic hunger in developing countries has caused about 146 millions children to be underweight. In essence, this makes about 25 percent of people that are hungry, children. An estimated 17 million children are born underweight. This is a result of wrongful nutrition during and right before pregnancy. [4]


f. Women
Women are likely to give birth to underweight children when they themselves are underweight as a result of an inadequate diet. In developing countries, about 50% of pregnant women have an iron deficiency. A consequence of an iron deficient left 314 million women dead at childbirth due to a hemorrhage. The need for food, therefore, is higher for women when they are pregnant. [4]

IV. International Attempts to Help World Hunger
a. Efforts Being Made
There are many efforts being made in an attempt to help diminish or end world hunger. Different organizations are using different tactics to solve the problem. Overall, there has not been much progress towards ending world hunger. More progress has been made in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. Between the years 1995-1997 and 2004-2006, the number of hungry people has increased. This is true for all regions excluding the Caribbean and Latin America. The reason for little progress is high food prices and the economic downfall. Today, about one in six people are not able to live a healthy life because they don’t get enough food. This makes malnutrition and hunger the biggest risk to health in the world. The risk is even greater than that of malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS combined. [4]
Organizations Involved
Action Centre La Faim (Action Against Hunger)
America's Second Harvest
American Red Cross
AmeriCares Foundation
Bread For The World
Catholic Relief Services
Congressional Hunger Center
Educational Concerns For Hunger Organization
Feinstein Petition To End Hunger
Food First - The Institute For Food And Development Policy
Food For The Hungry
Foodchain - The National Food-Rescue Network
Freedom From Hunger
Future Harvest
Heifer Project International
The Hunger Project
International Rescue Committee
International Service Agencies
Lutheran World Relief
Oxfam America
Oxfam International
Save The Children Federation
Share Our Strength
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

V. Taking Action Against World Hunger
a. Reasons to Take Action
The main reason to take action against world hunger is because it goes against the rights of every human. In Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights it says:

“(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.” [5]

This being said, everyone has the right to food in order to sustain a healthy life and well-being. It is not fair that some people’s rights are infringed upon.

b. How to Take Action
  1. Write letters or articles to the editor of your local paper and request that the government cut or end subsidies because they make it hard for poor communities to survive.
  2. Ask representatives in congress to provide cash and training to the hungry rather than food itself. The reason for this is many people know how to farm but don’t have the resources to do so. Training and money would be more help for it would get them on their feet so they could eat for a long time.
  3. Buy “Fair trade” products. Find which items fall under fair trade at
  4. Conserve energy. Fuel is pricey which makes shipping food to other countries that need it more expensive.
  5. Pressure Obama and his administration to use energy that doesn’t involve ethanol and other biofuels. Developing countries often have to give up land for fuel production. The bad thing about this is that there is less food production for human consumption.
  6. Eat less meat. The food that goes towards feeding animals could feed the hungry with some to spare. About sixteen pounds of grain are required to make a pound of meat. For more information go to or
  7. Support projects that push for the use of sustainable farming techniques.
  8. Persuade local editorial writers to write less about the scarceness of food and more about the causes such as illiteracy, loss of land, joblessness, and others. The causes are important because they’re the reason food is hard to produce.
  9. Fight to reduce the sale of pesticides and genetically modified seeds which benefit big agribusinesses but hurt little underdeveloped businesses. The seeds are not beneficial to developing businesses because they don’t reproduce, which forces those businesses to keep buying them.
  10. Speak out for the human right to food security. Though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everybody in the world has the right to food, many people are denied this right.
c. My Civic Action Project
A major way that anyone can get involved in helping end world hunger is by going to a website called Free Rice is a non-profit website that donates 10 grains of rice for every correct question answered. The questions range in subject and difficulty, which allows everyone to answer questions. Though ten grains of rice doesn’t seem like a lot, any amount adds up. Also, if the website becomes more popular, then the amount of rice being donated would increase greatly. The problem of hunger can be diminished simply with the click of a mouse. Free Rice costs nothing to play, for all of the rice is paid for by sponsors, whose names appear at the bottom of the website each time a question is answered correctly.
To watch a video of Free Rice giving rice to people in Bangladesh go to

[1] Mosely, Walter. "Ten Things You Can Do to Fight World Hunger." The Nation. 13 4 2009. The Nation, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.
[2] "An End to World Hunger: Hope for the Future." Think Quest. 23 11 2009. Think Quest, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.
[3] "Hunger." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2009. Food and Agriculture Organization, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.
[4] "Hunger." World Food Programme. 2009. World Food Programme, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.
[5] "The Universal Declaration of Independence." United Nations. 2009. United Nations, Web. 13 Dec 2009. < >.

Bibliography :
Mosely, Walter. "Ten Things You Can Do to Fight World Hunger." The Nation. 13 4 2009. The Nation, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.

"An End to World Hunger: Hope for the Future." Think Quest. 23 11 2009. Think Quest, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.

"Hunger." Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2009. Food and Agriculture Organization, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.

"Hunger." World Food Programme. 2009. World Food Programme, Web. 11 Dec 2009. <>.

"The Universal Declaration of Independence." United Nations. 2009. United Nations, Web. 13 Dec 2009. < >