Coins in hands

Here is how much it would cost to end world hunger

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” -Mother Theresa

How about feeding 795 million people?

Many people are familiar with the issue of world hunger and many even understand the numbers associated with the global problem. But statistics show that the problem has actually gotten worse since 2016 after back-to-back decades of progress. What happened? Why is it still such a huge issue and how much would it cost to end world hunger?

How much money would it cost to end world hunger?

Let’s talk numbers. According to a 2018 report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), estimates range from $7 billion to $265 billion per year.

But wait, that’s a difference of nearly $260 billion. Why is the range so large and what do those numbers actually mean?

Well, it’s a matter of different approaches. The $7 billion approach focuses on reducing malnutrition, while the $265 billion approach aims to end hunger by first tackling the issue of poverty.

No matter which approach you consider, the issue of solving hunger is no quick fix. The main reason for this is the need for infrastructure to transport the necessary food and resources to poverty-stricken regions. This means roads for transporting food and resources, agricultural solutions such as irrigation (which requires a reliable water source), education having to do with sustainable farming techniques and nutrition…the list goes on. World hunger is so much more than empty stomachs, which is why many organizations believe a more holistic approach, while it may take longer and cost more money to achieve, is a more permanent solution to world hunger.

The World Health Organization considers hunger the single greatest threat to global health because it affects so many aspects of human life and it traps those affected by it in a vicious cycle. If a child’s family lives in poverty, their chances of a life in poverty are much higher. Hunger prevents children from learning, which prevents them from being able to work as adults, which keeps them rooted in a lifetime of poverty; the original cause of their hunger.

How Many People Live in Poverty?

More than 700 million people (nearly 10% of the world’s population) live in extreme poverty and struggle to fulfil basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation. 

Hunger is the leading cause of death worldwide, killing more than HIV/Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

What is the poorest country in the world?

The majority of the world’s population suffering from severe poverty and hunger live in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Hungry children in Africa

The poorest country in the world in 2019 is the Central African Republic. The country’s annual income divided by its population (GNI per capita) leaves the average with around $663 annually. The life expectancy of someone born in the Central African Republic is about 53 years. Despite an abundance of resources like gold, diamonds, and oil, near constant violence and exploitation has stunted the country’s growth since they gained their independence in 1960. Just over half of the population lives in rural areas and 90% of the population occupying cities live in slums. Over half are undernourished.

Due to the unfortunate cyclical nature of hunger and poverty, it’s difficult to point to the single greatest cause, even within a specific region. Having said that, the sub-Saharan African nations suffer prolonged drought causing food shortages and medical emergencies. Many countries are landlocked, preventing trade, and many suffer from political instability, war, or ethnic and religious violence.

So…can we actually end world hunger?

At Food For Life, we believe it’s possible to end world hunger. But to do it, we have to attack the problem at its root cause.

The most frustrating thing about the issue of world hunger, however, is that it is not the result of a lack of food. There is plenty of food grown and produced around the world each year to feed everyone. So what is causing world hunger?

  1. Poverty: Lack of resources like farmland as well as the means to harvest, store, and preserve food are major challenges for poor populations. The cyclical nature of hunger makes it extremely difficult for those suffering from hunger to help themselves.
  2. Waste: The United Nations estimates that nearly one third of the food the world produces is wasted each year; more than enough food to feed the undernourished multitudes.
  3. Climate change: Farmers in developing countries can’t grow food and crops in areas where the temperature has risen and the rain patterns are less predictable. Farmers plant too late or too early and lose their crops due to unforeseen weather patterns like storms and droughts. A light harvest can devastate a community already battling hunger. From 1998 to 2017, world economic losses from disasters were estimated at almost $3 trillion, according to the United Nations.

The solution to world hunger is a world where everyone has the resources and tools necessary to produce their own food. After all, a full stomach only remains full for so long. Humanitarian and relief organizations focus their efforts mainly on these three areas:

  1. Agriculture: Connect farmers to people and resources that can help them get started, increase their yield, or protect their crops from pests and weeds without the use of harmful chemicals. Healthier soil leads to healthier crops, which leads to healthier people.
  2. Sustainability: This extends beyond farming practices. Helping communities develop the skills and strategies necessary for managing their financial resources is key to their health and survival.
  3. Government and Infrastructure: Without the laws and policies necessary to support farming families, it won’t matter what kind of agricultural techniques or even what financial resources are available. Working with the governments of affected communities to do what is needed in order to move forward is crucial to solving world hunger. Access to clean water and education is also included in this area. Providing information on how to produce, prepare, and preserve food capable of sustaining a nutritious diet is the key to the future success of impoverished parts of the world.

It’s this kind of work that will make ending hunger possible. But you don’t have to leave all the effort to these organizations. Ending hunger will take the participation of everyone. The U.N. has launched a goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030.

If you’re passionate about eradicating the number one threat to global health, look into opportunities to donate within your community or launch a global fundraising campaign. Educate your family and friends about sustainable farming practices and reducing food waste. Any little bit counts and helps provide a suffering family with some relief.

What would the end of world hunger look like?

Ending hunger would break a vital cog in the poverty machine, finally allowing impoverished populations a chance at a healthy life. When people aren’t worried about where their next meal is coming from, they can focus on things beyond their most basic needs. Education and the status of women would improve, agricultural practices would advance and nations everywhere would become more productive and self-sustaining.

Ending world hunger would not only improve the lives of populations who have suffered from systemic poverty for millenia, it would facilitate peaceful relations around the world.