Starvation kills more than diseases. In the middle of the third millennium, in spite of technological progress and the improvement of relations between states, the figures are still devastating: the greatest risk to the health of individuals is represented by malnutrition, rather than by the combined action of Aids, malaria and tuberculosis.
On the day of the inauguration of Expo 2015, a glimpse – however unpopular it may seem – of the reality, the glimpse should be moved from “good nutrition”, a western concept related to health, “food for life”, linked to survival in developing countries. And the problem is not a niche.
Eight hundred and 5 million people worldwide – from World Food Programme Wfp sources-have not enough to eat. The vast majority of people who suffer from starvation (709 million) live just in developing countries, where 13.5% of the population is undernourished. Asia, for example, has the highest proportion of people who suffer from hunger (about 525 million), although this number is slowly decreasing.
There are other figures that leave horrified: poor nutrition accounts for almost half (45%) of deaths amongst children under five (3.1 million each year). A toddler at 6 (about 100 million) is underweight, one out of four suffers from lack of growth. In developing countries, 66 million children of school age-23 million in Africa alone-attend lessons on an empty stomach.
Needless to continue to reel off figures to photograph the gravity of the situation. Yet,beyond the slogans which are also the masters at this Expo, the willingness of governments to intervene on the situation is minimal. The main causes of starvation in addition to natural disasters, are conflicts, endemic poverty, the lack of infrastructure for agriculture and over-exploitation of the environment.
So one wonders: what is the purpose behind this Expo? How much will it weigh on the real life of the”lowliest” of the earth, this catwalk which is certainly good for politicians, perhaps an opportunity for companies, and as we have seen from surveys, a palatable dish for crime?
A global policy for the rebalancing of resources is needed, the transfer of know-how and infrastructure assistance. This objective is possible, as long as we don’t point to earning immediate profits (diamonds, oil, gas) but rather acting in the interests of global growth, putting the human above any political, ideological divisions and convenience. In essence, giving rather than getting from countries that are being exploited. A slap in the face to selfishness, that, until today noone has been able to give.
Therefore it is still a utopia, which perhaps will become a reality perhaps only when the availability of food (and water) will directly hit the western countries.
But starvation is not only a lack of food. It also manifests itself in more hidden forms. Micronutrient deficiency, for example, exposes people to contract infectious diseases more easily, prevents an adequate physical and mental development, reduces productivity and increases the risk of a premature death.
And this situation affects not only individuals but also undermines the economic potential. Economists estimate that every child whose mental and physical development is altered by hunger and malnutrition, has less ability to generate income during his lifetime, ranging between 5 and 10 percent. A slap in the face to the possibility of growth of entire portions of the planet
Development objectives for the millennium, established by the United Nations for the 21st century, as a top priority, the halving of the number of hungry people. Despite progress made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and 1990s, over the past decade there has been a slow but steady increase in hunger.
Having said this, for the record, it should be noted how droughts are the most common cause of food shortages in the world today. In 2006, scarce rains have resulted in recurrent crop failures and loss of large amounts of livestock in parts of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. In many countries, climate change is exacerbating the already unfavourable natural conditions. For example, poor farmers in Ethiopia or Guatemala, in the absence of rain, tend generally to sell livestock to cover losses and to buy food. However, consecutive years in lack of rains, increasingly common in the Horn of Africa and in Central America are putting a strain on their resources.
And then follows the chapter on conflicts. From Asia to Africa to Latin America, wars are forcing millions of people to abandon their homes and causing among the worst global food emergencies. Since 2004, over one million people have had to flee from their homes owing to the Dafur conflict, provoking a serious food shortage, in a land where rain and good harvest were usually lacking.
During conflicts, food becomes a weapon. Soldiers bring their enemies to hunger, stealing their food and dkilling off their livestock systematically affecting the local markets. They place bombs in the fields and the water-wells are contaminated forcing the farmers to leave. This is what is happening in Africa and Middle-East, where entire populations are escaping from the perseutions perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalist groups, thus aggravating the situation.
In short, because of the lack of interest on the part of the west, and the cruelty of the locals, the poor suffer from starvation-the same starvation is caging them in their poverty.