The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ World Disasters Report, written by experts in the field of food and nutrition, highlights the growing pressure of food insecurity and malnutrition on populations across the globe. In 2010, 19 countries in Africa reported such crises in at least eight out of the ten previous years, up from five countries in 1990.
Children dying from hunger
The report states that preventing under-nutrition, addressing diseases related to micronutrient deficiency and greater attention on treating less severe cases of malnutrition is key to reducing deaths.
Every year, about three million children die before they reach the age of five as a result of malnutrition. Up to 90 per cent of deaths related to malnutrition occur as a result of long-term, chronic hunger, not sudden food crises and famines.
Feeding the world
Forecasts suggest feeding a world population likely to grow from seven billion to more than nine billion by mid-century will require a 70 per cent increase in global food production.
The report highlights that more investment in agriculture is essential, but shows the increasingly widespread agreement that promoting smallholder farming could be the best way forward – rather than encouraging large-scale industrialised farming dependent on oil and which can lead to displacement of poor people and environmental damage.
Inflated food prices in 2010-11 have pushed nearly 110 million people into the ranks of the undernourished, with the worst hit being the poor who spend between 50-80 per cent of their incomes on food. David added: “Global food prices continue to be volatile and it is essential that the most vulnerable are better prepared to cope with changing agricultural and food markets.”
Red Cross support for the hungry
Working with Red Cross National Societies in Africa, the British Red Cross supports a number of communities that struggle to get enough to eat and is building longer-term resilience to food crises in countries such as Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Kenya.
For example, in Kenya, as well as distributing emergency food aid, the Red Cross is helping people become better prepared and able to cope with future crises. This includes: improving access to water and health services, distributing drought-tolerant seeds, setting up greenhouses for crops such as tomatoes and peppers, which can be sold for an income; irrigation projects to support small holdings; and school feeding programmes to help keep children in education.
The British Red Cross is also supporting the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in response to the current famine in central and south Somalia.