Myths on hunger debunked:

Hunger is best represented by pictures of skinny children in refugee camps


Myth 7: Hunger is best illustrated by pictures of skinny children in refugee camps


The unacceptable pictures of children in an acute state of undernourishment that can be found in the media at the time when crises make the headlines are not representative of what hunger really is. These are pictures taken in extreme situations that fortunately only concern a few tens of million people in the world, as has been the case recently in the Horn of Africa. The fact that 260,000 people died of starvation in Somalia in the 2008-2010 famine is horrific, but much larger numbers are dying prematurely each year because of chronic hunger.

But the mass of people suffering from hunger (around one billion persons) are not experiencing such extreme suffering as can be seen endured by children in these widely disseminated pictures. This mass of people however live in a state of physical weakness that often does not give them the energy to work and graduate from the dire situation in which they live. This physical weakness makes them also more vulnerable to diseases as it affects their immunity to infections.

Chronically hungry people find themselves in a state of great economic vulnerability that leaves them unable to cope with any shock (e.g. bad harvest because of a climatic incident or a pest invasion, soaring food prices, etc.) that can catapult them into a state of extreme deprivation.

This is very important to consider, as solutions adapted to deal with situations of extreme emergency (food aid) cannot adequately address the situation of the majority of the hungry. These latter cases require different forms of support that will allow them to exit from vulnerability and become able to sustain their living by working and earning sufficient income to meet their needs in an autonomous fashion.

Materne Maetz

(September 2012)


For your comments and reactions:

Last update:    September 2013