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I am hungry!

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Azhar u din

According to the FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) — “Hunger is an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy. It becomes chronic when the person does not consume a sufficient amount of calories (dietary energy) on a regular basis to lead a normal, active and healthy life.”

It is estimated by FAO that in the present times, approximately 820 million people of the globe are suffering from the chronic under-nourishment. The high concentration of hungry people is found in the lower middle income areas. Africa, which is the poorest continent, has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, but being the most-populous continent, Asia which accounts about 60 percent of the total world population, has highest number of undernourished people.

The percentage of underweight children’s in Asia is about 20 percent, and Asia is also the home of approximately 70 percent children who are suffering from malnutrition. One of the main causes for the hunger and malnutrition is the deficiency of important vitamins and minerals in one’s diet. It is important to note here that there is paucity of iodine in both Asia and Africa. The mental and psychometric development of child is being greatly affected by the iodine deficiency disorders.

As per as the report of Global Hunger Index (2017) Southern Asia has the global hunger index about 30.9 percent which shows the serious hunger level. It also accounts nearly 14.7 percent of the people who are suffering from the undernourishment and the ample number of hungry people in Asia.

India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan are the main countries of the southern Asia. The pivotal reason of the highest hunger rate in Asia mainly in southern Asia is its huge population. The population growth is continuously increasing here but the number and quantity of resources is not so high in Asia that it can feed its growing number of bellies. Also the technology level is not much advanced that the people in Asia can produce much agricultural output by using the small quantity of resources.

Another important reason of hunger here is the food insecurity. The food prices in Asia have been touching skies since 2000 due to the high demand of increasing population, which causes the food insecurity for the poor. Thus the poor person, whose income is very low, cannot take the burden to feed the bellies of 4 to 5 family members. Factors like increasing population growth, high urbanization and a decrease in agricultural land and poor policies of the government are the main culprits behind the increasing food insecurity in Asia.

The high rate of corruption in Asia is also one of the important reasons for its poverty which directly or indirectly responsible for its high hunger ratio. Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked India 80th in the new corruption list released in 2019.

Climate change which is being observed all over the world for nearly last 30 years leads to the occurrence of natural disasters like floods, cyclones, droughts, etc., which are directly damaging the agricultural fields and rendering them unproductive for the agricultural output, which in turn becomes cause for the hunger not only in Asia but also in the other developing parts of the world.

As we know, India is the second most populated country of the world. It accounts about 17.5 percent of the total world population with only 2.4 percent of total land area of the globe. Although India has made great advancement in the agricultural field and food-grain production has been increased about two times, but still it is not able to feed a large number of people. About 194.4 million people (14.5 percent) in India are undernourished as estimated by FAO in 2019.

According to the same report, 37.9 percent of the children who have the age of below five years are stunted (i.e, too short for their age), on the other hand 20.8 percent children are suffering from underweight problems. There is high risk of childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria in the malnourished children.

According to the report of UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, 2018) approximately 8.8 lakh children having the age of below five years died in India in 2018, due to malnutrition, which is the highest in the world. It is important to note here that India is ranked at 102 out of 117 countries in Global Hunger Index 2019 — lower than Nepal (73), Bangladesh (88) and Pakistan (94).

Although many schemes have been implemented by the central and state governments in order to improve the nutrition level of people with special emphasis on women and children like PDS( public Distribution System), the Mid-Day Meals scheme, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, the National Food Security Act, 2013 etc, but unfortunately these schemes are not working properly at the grass-root level due to high corruption.

Another important problem in India is the wastage of food. Streets, garbage bins and landfills give the sufficient testimony of it. It is estimated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that about 40 percent of the food produced in India is being wasted. In wedding parties large quantity of food is wasted which is beyond our perception and imagination; in fact they are the large hotspots where the ample amount of food is being wasted. Restaurants and hotels also contribute to food wastage in very good amount.

In order to tackle hunger, the first and the foremost thing which the every hunger facing country has do, is to eradicate poverty by means of providing more job opportunities in the both private and public sectors. Another important measure is to control the increasing population growth. The government should also focus on eradicating corruption and should make strict laws against it, so that the various schemes for improving the nutritional levels work smoothly at the ground level.

The media of the country should also take an active part by exposing the loopholes of these schemes instead of debating the useless things. Food wastage should be also taken into consideration and everybody at the individual level must try to save the food as much as possible. Instead of wasting food, let’s ensure that it is used to eradicate hunger by directing it to those who desperately need and want it.

(The author from Anantnag, is the student of Geography at Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at azhardin325@gmail.com)

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