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September 13, 2010

Report Says Hunger Costing Poor Countries Billions

Hunger is costing the world's poor nations up to $450 billion a year, according to a new report published by the group Action Aid. It says countries are severely off target to meet the Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger in half by 2015.

One of the authors of the report, Jo Walker, says the progress made on the hunger goal is disappointing.

"It has been more or less stagnant progress over the last 10 years and there has been a really bad hit from the food and financial crisis, which has meant that much of that progress has been eroded and now in fact the world is way, way off track to meet the global target," she said.

The Group of Eight industrialized nations set eight Millennium Development Goals in 2000, which are to be met by 2015. Eradicating extreme hunger and poverty is the number-one goal.

Walker says a failure to do so is costing poor countries billions of dollars yearly.

"There is around an average, and this is a conservative estimate at that, of around $450 billion per year that has been lost through hunger," added Walker.

She says that sum is based on the long-term cost of malnutrition during childhood.

According to Action Aid's report, some countries are meeting food targets. Brazil, China, Ghana, Malawi, and Vietnam topped the list. Action Aid says they cut back on hunger by scaling up investment in small farms and introducing social welfare plans such as free school meals.

At the bottom of the list are several African countries - the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Burundi and Lesotho - as well as Pakistan.

India has also made poor progress on hunger, Walker says. Adding that more than half of India's children are malnourished, even though the economy is thriving.

"These are the countries that have just done too little to support the hungry and the poorest in their society to really overcome these struggles," she added. "They have just not invested enough in supporting their poor farmers and they have just not invested enough in really tackling growth and equalities in the countries."

According to Action Aid's report, 20 out of 28 countries are off track to meet the Millennium Development Goal on hunger. It says 12 countries are actually moving backwards.

National governments, it says, need to do more and rich countries must give more financial assistance to ensure the goals are met.

World leaders are to meet in New York next week to assess progress on the Millennium Goals during the past decade.