In the twenty-first century, the world community has entered with a burden of serious unsolved problems, threats of an explosive nature that put humanity on the brink of survival. Mass hunger and malnutrition are just such problems, which affect both developing and economically countries.
Famine is a term used both to describe the feeling that accompanies a certain physiological state of the organism and the long-term insufficient satisfaction of the nutritional needs of large groups of the population.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that for every 100 people currently living around the globe, 10 are undernourished; 200 million people are on the brink of starvation. According to the UN World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Asia-Pacific region has the most hungry and undernourished – 642 million people. It is followed by Southern Africa, with 265 million people. FAO estimates that one in three children in the world dies of hunger, and another 200 million young citizens are regularly hungry. Africa and Asia are at the top of the list of child deaths from hunger. There live 90% of all starving children in the world, and 132 out of a thousand children do not live to be five years old. The famine`s causes in these regions are truly horrific and tragic.
Famine – as its most extreme manifestation and an enormous social disaster – has afflicted the masses of people in antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the periods of modern and contemporary history.
Food shortages have accompanied humankind throughout its history. In the mythology of the Indians of Central America there was a God of hunger, and thanks to the texts of the Maya codes and sacred books of the ancient inhabitants of the region, we can judge the outstanding role that belonged to its main food crop – corn. In Greek mythology, the first woman created by the Olympian gods, Pandora, opened the vessel and forced people to go through drought and famine natural disasters.
The world community has repeatedly set the goal of eradicating hunger or at least reducing its severity, but each time the targets have proven unattainable. For example, at the end of 1989 in Bellagio, Italy, an international nongovernmental conference on the fight against hunger declared that it was possible to end deaths from hunger in a short time and to free half of the poor families from famine. But these predictions never materialized. Further, the 1996 World Food Summit declared as an international goal the reduction of the percentage of the world’s hungry and chronically undernourished people by 2017. To achieve the goal of halving the proportion of people who are hungry by 2017, it must decline by 20 million people annually.
Eradicating hunger can be seen as the challenge of providing everyone with the means to buy a standard amount of food. For food producers, this task depends on what they can produce, what they have to sell (to meet other needs – clothing, medicine, etc.), and what they can buy. Sometimes people sell expensive foods to buy lower-calorie plant foods like grain, which is often done by rural people.
An analysis of the socio-economic and historical causes of famines leads to the conclusion that hunger, mass malnutrition, and other difficulties of a similar kind has a strong inverse effect on social life. Among the manifold consequences of the aggravated food situation, a particularly important one is the inhibition of economic development while preserving its outdated conservative forms. Therefore, the task of overcoming the food crisis for any state becomes a priority, and its solution by democratic methods inevitably acquires a fateful character, opening the way to national revival.
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