Over the past 20 years World food production has increased by 2.1%
per year. Current production of cereals amounts to some 1.9
billion tonnes per year; with the World population standing at 6.2
billion that gives 306 kg per year for every man, woman and child
on the face of the planet - and that's just cereal. There is
enough food around to give everyone 2,700 calories per day. The
minimum requirement is 2,100 calories per day and malnourishment
is considered to be anything lower than 1,800 calories per day.
However, in the developing world one in five people do not have
enough food to meet their daily requirements. 800 million people
are malnourished. One person dies each and every second from
starvation and it's related diseases. Three quarters of those are
children under the age of five. Fifteen children died in the time
it took you to read this short paragraph.
Although food production outstrips the population it is unevenly
distributed. Where crops fail because of things like drought, the
Food aid often does not reach the people who so desperately
need it because of local politics, criminal greed and the
concentration of power in too few hands with the corruption that
often accompanies such a situation.
As I write these words there is a disastrous famine occurring
in Malawi, where thousands of people are starving to death. The
African country is one of the poorest in the World and it's
population of 11 million needs some 1.8 million tonnes of maize
per year. As the famine takes a grip the price of maize is
soaring; on the black market, the price of maize in the Southern
and Central regions of the country has risen in some places by up
to 600 percent, putting it out of the reach of the poor.
As early as August 2001, the government of Malawi knew
that it was facing a crisis when it had a deficit of 0.4 million
tonnes and yet it not only failed to acknowledge that disaster was
staring them in the face, they exacerbated the problem by selling vital stocks to Kenya.
President Bakili Muluzi finally declared a state of national
disaster in February of this year. Malawi needs at least $21.6m of
international aid to avert a human catastrophe, but so far less
than $5m have been raised. Malawi's deputy agriculture minister,
Mekkie Mtewa, has just been dismissed for revealing that
senior politicians were hoarding maize in order to sell it at
"Lack of good governance has resulted in a
misallocation of resources, increased the cost of doing business,
created a general distrust in public sector activities, and
weakened civil service morale. There is a need to recognize that
corruption and weak governance in tandem with bad policies make
financial aid ineffective, even counter-productive. Thus, we
support the authorities' efforts to strengthen the legal framework
and the institutions that combat corruption, mismanagement and
fraud, and encourage them to swiftly bring to closure high profile
(Paragraph 19 of the Malawió2002 Article IV Consultation
Concluding Statement of the IMF Mission - May 14, 2002)
In southern Africa at the moment (June 2002) famine is
spreading across seven countries. There are some eight million
people needing emergency food now in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,
Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the UN World Food Program (WFP)
has appealed for 1.3 million tonnes of emergency food. According
to UN agencies that figure will rise to 13 million by the end of
the year. The principal causes are said to be: drought, erratic
rainfall and warfare, and is exacerbated by AIDS and compounded by
government policies. Angola is considered a different type of
case, as malnutrition there is longstanding as a result of 27
years of civil war that ended in April of this year.
At the beginning of July 2002 the World Food Programme (WFP) called
for $500m to save the 13 million people facing starvation across
southern Africa, but has only received offers of $130m towards its
target (11 July 2002). Further down this page, towards the bottom,
you will find details of aid agencies which are appealing for
charitable donations to help alleviate this suffering
In poorer nations the poverty stricken amongst the population
cannot afford to buy what food is available.
Number of undernourished people (1969-1997)
|| Undernourished people (millions)
| Sub-Saharan Africa
| Near East & North Africa
| East & South-East Asia
| South Asia
| Latin America & the Caribbean
| Industrialized countries
| Countries in transition
|Source: FAO (1999)
You can see from the above table that World starvation levels
have fallen by 14% overall over the 28 year period of the survey.
This has been mainly due to better nourishment levels in Asia. But
Sub-Saharan Africa has incurred a doubling of their suffering over
the same period. The map below shows succinctly where the main
28 June 2002 - MORE WOE IN AFRICA
Six million people in Zimbabwe - practically half the 13
million population - are in imminent peril and will need food aid
within a matter of months. President Mugabe's government has
blamed the food crisis on drought, but it has been exacerbated by
Mugabe's continuance with land seizures from the country's white
commercial farmers. Aid agencies are claiming that there is a
significant risk of deaths because of hunger, especially among the
31 June 2002
Robert Mugabe's government in Zimbabwe is refusing to accept
thousands of tonnes of maize from the US, because some of it is
genetically modified. It has also been reported that Mugabe's
government is denying emergency food aid to people in areas that
oppose his government. For more information see the New
• Improved agricultural and irrigation technologies in areas where
crop failure is high.
Better and more efficient distribution of food around the World.
• Better relief mechanisms to areas of famine,
bypassing local corruption and greed.
Make food available to the poorest people in the World by reducing
World poverty and allowing people to buy what they need.
• Reduce intra and inter-national conflicts, which
means a unified international Negotiation Organisation and a
better and more cohesive international Peace-Keeping Policy.
See, easy ... I solved it. Now, can we just get out there and
get on with it?
WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
The following aid agencies are currently appealing for
donations to help with food supplies:
- Oxfam International has a briefing paper
on the famine. Donations can be made via the Oxfam sites in each
individual country. In the UK, contributions are accepted via
Oxfam GB's special Southern
Africa donations page, or by post at Oxfam, 274 Banbury Road,
Oxford, OX2 7DZ, UK. Tel: +44 1865 313131
Vision - also active in southern Africa. In addition
to its main website, the charity has more information on its
national sites - the UK
site has further details specific to the UK.
International and Care
International UK - has up-to-date information on the
famine, especially in Malawi. It is possible to donate
online. The UK arm is also accepting donations at CIUK, 10-13
Rushworth Street, London SE1 0RB, UK
Aid - British-based charity Christian Aid has produced a special
report on the situation. You can donate online to Christian
Aid's appeal, or by post to: Christian Aid, PO Box 100, London SE1
7RT, UK. Tel: +44 80 80 004 004
the Children - The UK arm of Save the Children has
information on its appeal relating to the Malawi famine, and
opportunities to donate.
sans Frontieres - This international charity providing
emergency medical care has a special
report on MSF's involvement in emergency relief in Angola, as
well as a donations
page, with details on how to donate from different countries.
In the USA, the charity is called Doctors
Relief - The international charity World Relief also has a
report on the Malawi famine.
Emergency Committee (DEC) - Donations to UK charities,
including many of those listed above, can be made via DEC, which
has a report on the famine. Donations can be made online or by
calling +44 870 6060900.
- Dublin-based Concern is doing emergency work in several
parts of Angola. Donations can be made via the web-site.