Myths on hunger debunked:

In period of economic crisis, it is too costly to fight against hunger


Myth 9: In periods of economic crisis, it is too costly to fight against hunger


Fighting hunger is a profitable investment that generates economic growth. Several studies have shown that a reduction in hunger and an improvement of nutrition impact directly on economic growth. This improvement is because the enhanced physical and intellectual capacity of that part of the population whose ability to perform to their full potential has been constrained by their hunger, enables them to contribute to and benefit from economic growth.

A series of studies conducted by the World Food Programme estimate the cost of hunger. This cost is incurred because of the loss of millions of hours of work, reduced labour productivity, slower learning by children at school, deaths due to undernourishment and increased health costs. These studies estimate that hunger costs annually USD 4.7 billion (16.5% of GDP) to Ethiopia, USD 3.7 billion (1.9% of GDP) to Egypt, USD 900 million (5.6% of GDP) to Uganda and USD 92 million to Swaziland (3.1% of GDP).

According to the FAO, the cost of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies can be estimated at 2 to 3 percent of global GDP, equivalent to USD1.4–2.1 trillion per year.

Resources required to fight hunger sustainably through developing agriculture and employment in both rural and urban areas are much lower than the cost of hunger or the amounts spent to try and resolve other problems.

For example, FAO and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) estimated in 2002 that there was a need to invest USD 4.6 billion annually to achieve food security in Africa over a period of less than 15 years. This figure is ridiculously small if compared to aid provided by OECD countries to their agriculture (more than USD 350 billion annually) or the resources mobilised by the international community to manage the international financial crisis (up to USD 2000 billion by the US alone, to manage their Financial Stability Plan in February 2009).

The momentum generated by the High Level Conference of 2008, the World Food Summit held in Rome in June 2009, followed by the G8 meeting in L’Aquila in August of the same year, led to pledges of more than 20 billion dollars in aid for agriculture at the time when the food crisis was hitting both rich and poor countries. Unfortunately, the financial and economic crisis contributed to reducing the interest of rich countries in food issues. So they finally mobilised only some very limited additional funding (only a few billion USD in 2009)…

Materne Maetz

(September 2012

updated July 2013)

Last update:    September 2013

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