Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — I have been reading and hearing about the need to eradicate world hunger for many years. Despite the best efforts of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), we have yet to see any major, wide-encompassing results, and only a handful of countries appear to have made any progress in this direction.
The way I see it, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include the reduction of world hunger to half by 2015, continue to be too modest, for there is enough cultivable land in the world, and sufficient food is currently being grown, to be able to feed every human being on the planet, and without having to wait so many years. What countries lack isn’t food but the political will of their governments to overcome the problem.
According to recent declarations made by FAO Director General Jose Garziano da Silva, even though hunger indices have been significantly reduced in the course of the last decade, as many as 870 million people still suffer from malnutrition and millions of human beings – whose exact numbers have not yet been determined – endure vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
A mere 20 countries have reached the Millennium Development Goal of reducing the number of people who endure hunger by half.
In addition, 18 countries were commended by the FAO for having reached the MDGs and the goals established at the World Food Summit (WFS) ahead of time, by reducing the number of malnourished people in their populations by half. In alphabetical order, these were: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Djibouti, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Kuwait, Kirgizstan, Nicaragua, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.
That only 18 of the 180 countries that gathered at the FAO’s headquarters in 1996 to analyze the different ways in which hunger could be eradicated should have accomplished anything significant in this connection ought to be considered a categorical failure of the initiative. It means that 90 percent of these nations have made next to insignificant or no progress at all towards the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty.
If the fact that 15 percent of people living in developing countries endure hunger is lamentable, the fact that 16 million human beings who live in developed countries, surrounded by opulence, should be malnourished is simply scandalous. That there are regions around the world that have not seen any modest improvements in this situation and have actually witnessed an increase in hunger, such as the African continent, should also be cause for concern.
The problem is not a shortage of food. Again, there is enough food for everyone. What nations lack are the financial resources to secure this food. However, a small part of the immense sums spent on armaments used in needless wars would suffice to feed every single person on the planet. Better yet, these nations could be assisted in the development of a sustainable form of agriculture that can supply everyone with food.
Today, the high costs of food, determined, not by shortages, but by financial speculation, place it beyond the reach of millions of people. In my opinion, we should have legislation which prohibits financial speculation in the food market, for one of the fundamental human rights we can all agree on is the right to proper nutrition, and it is a violation of this right that transnational food corporations should fatten their bank account and thousands of tons of food should be squandered or literally thrown in the garbage when millions of people have no access to a basic diet.
The FAO Conference recently held in Rome called on nations to devote immense efforts to help the world overcome this problem, but rich countries, which could contribute enough resources to do away with hunger, lack the political will to do this. And transnational food corporations would rather throw away tons of foods than lower their prices.
These are the contradictions of an ever more decadent neo-liberal capitalist system which, should it refuse to change, will be wiped clean from the face of the earth by the people.