5 questions to F. Patterson: Why is there more hunger?

Every year in October, the "Welthungerhilfe" aid organisation, with the Irish "Concern Worldwide" NGO, publishes the Global Hunger Index, a tool with which the hunger situation is recorded and tracked on global, regional and national levels. What are the trends - and what needs to be done? Fraser Patterson is a consultant for Welthungerhilfe and concerns himself with the index.

(c) Foto Privat
Fraser Patterson is consultant for world nutrition at the Welthungerhilfe

1. The number of people going hungry around the world has been falling over many years. But not any more. Why?

Over the last three years, this group has grown, namely to 822 million people. The reasons for this are an increase in armed conflicts because working the fields is no longer possible, delivery trucks are held up and food prices rise, and climate change in the form of droughts and flooding. These are the two main drivers. They are joined however by poverty per se. In theory, it is possible now to feed ten billion people, but many often have no access because they can not afford food. Poverty is often a consequence of marginalisation and inequality; four out of five of those suffering from starvation live away from towns and cities, in marginalised places with few opportunities and little education, health provision or functioning infrastructure.


2. So is the goal to beat global hunger by 2030 an unrealistic hope?

We have been on the wrong track for three years. However, the World Hunger Index is showing that it is possible to reduce global hunger because the index values have fallen by 28% since 2000. In theory, an end can be put to hunger by 2030, but it needs enormous efforts on all levels. The goal is very ambitious but attainable. All countries have after all committed to this goal. Now we need to hold the governments of these countries to account.


3. What needs to be done then?

Armed conflicts need political solutions – this is where governments in particular must act. And climate change needs to be tackled, by meeting our climate goals in the global north and helping poorer countries adapt to the effects of climate change. And, the tackling of poverty and hunger must take topmost priority in development policies. The focus must lie here primarily on countries developed the least, such as in Africa south of the Sahara, and in Southern Asia. Investment is required here in rural development and smallholders – because it is they who produce the most food in these regions.


4. What role is digitisation playing in agriculture?

Digitisation can play an important role. There is huge potential in this area, but it must be accessible for the poorest. These technologies are often too expensive for smallholders, or they are not available in remote regions. Welthungerhilfe is also working on digital solutions – such as apps for farmers. It is key for us here that they are developed together with those living locally.


5. So what is going wrong in rich countries?

We are the prime causer of climate change and must finally meet our climate goals. It also needs coherent policies - international trade policy should not undermine the successes of development collaboration. The UN guiding principles for business and human rights should be implemented by governments and the business world. It is possible for us to bring about a trend reversal in coming years and reduce again the number of starving people across the world. But for this, we need to see more efforts - from the rich countries too.


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