oxsal (oxsal) wrote in oxfamco,

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Hunger in a world of plenty - what can you do about it?

It’s easy to feel powerless when you turn on the TV and see images of children in Africa, with swollen stomachs, and small skeletal fames caused a lack of sufficient nutrients. It’s also easy to become detached, because the problem appears to too big and too overwhelming. As you’ll see in this post, hunger is an epidemic affecting not just the developing world, but all nations! In order to bring this problem under control, a combination of education, compassion and social action is needed. Read this post to find out more…

In this post you will find:
1. Some facts and figures
What causes hunger?
2. The effects of hunger on health and society
3. Hunger in the United States
Food scarcity vs. food insecurity
4. What is Oxfam Doing?
Oxfam’s Hunger banquet
6. Your homework assignment – it’s time to TAKE ACTION!

By the time it takes you to read this paragraph, 2 children will have died from hunger related causes… 30,000 by the end of today. Yet, where is the public outcry? Where’s the conscience of nations who have the power to reduce this number drastically? The United Nations Development Program estimates that the basic health and nutrition needs of the world's poorest people could be met for an additional $13 billion a year. Animal lovers in the United States and Europe spend more than that on pet food each year! The problem is not that food is scarce. In fact, our planet produces more then enough food too feed every man, woman and child. So what’s the problem?

The problem lies in the root causes of hunger, which is caused by inequalities in access to resources, education and power. The results are high levels of poverty, illiteracy and the inability to grow or buy food. Nations and people become more vulnerable, and that vulnerability leads to unfair treatment in the world economy which only compounds the likelihood that they will remain in poverty and experience hunger.

The root causes of hunger:
LACK OF EDUCATION – 115 million children in the world can’t go to primary school. School fees are one of the many obstacles denying children in developing countries a basic education and locking them into a cycle of poverty.

LACK OF ACCESS TO RESOURCES – Millions of farmers are deprived of the resources they need to survive, including land, credit, water and access to markets for their goods.

DEBT BURDENS – the endless cycle of debt contributes directly to poverty in many countries, draining financial resources that should be directed to social services, including health care and education.

TRADE – Millions of farmers, laborers and factory workers are being cheated by the blatantly unfair rules of world trade. High tariffs, subsidies, and bans on certain imports are often insurmountable barriers to people trying to break the cycle of poverty.

CONFLICT AND WAR – Millions die each year from war-related hunger and disease. Worldwide, there are about 20 million people displaced by war and humanitarian emergencies. At present, a crisis is taking place in the Darfur region of western Sudan, affecting over a million people.
To read more about what Oxfam is doing in this region, go to:

DISCRIMINATION – Members of oppressed castes, indigenous groups and religious minorities often have led access to resources and government assistance. They are frequently the last to receive emergency aid in the wake of disasters.

The Effects of Hunger:
Currently, more than 842 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. Not only does Oxfam America believe that having enough food to feed yourself and your family is a basic human right, but according to Article 3 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Simply, hunger is incompatible with this right, hindering both human capabilities, and the right to a healthy life.

POVERTY At present 1.2 billion people in our world – that’s one in five – live on less than $1 a day, and 2.4 billion live without decent sanitation. Hunger is just another result of poverty and lack of opportunity. As a relief and development organization, Oxfam firmly believes that hunger and poverty CAN be overcome. Through supporting local organizations that understand the specific needs of their communities, as well as providing resources and training, Oxfam enables people to take ownership of the problems they face by attempting to find sustainable solutions to poverty. When people are empowered to take control of their lives, lasting changes come.

What is needed is committed assistance by developed nations – possibly in the form of aid, investment in micro finance, education, health care, debt relief, and peace and security. At present, the United States is spending over $500 billion dollars this year to fund the military, and reconstruction in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, when it comes to aid and poverty elimination in developing nations, (which helps PREVENT conflict), the budget changes. A mere $15 billion dollars went to fund development, hunger and poverty in 2004. Even this $15 billion dollar amount can be further broken down – with 53% of this aid going to relatively well off countries like Israel, Egypt and Eastern European countries in transition, for military and security assistance. According to the United Nations, developed nations should give a minimum target aid amount of .7% of GNI (gross national income). Currently, the US is pledging only.3%, which falls short of the target. The only nations to reach (and exceed) the 0.7 UN target is Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Luxemburg.

“If we channeled just $40 billion each year away from armies into anti-poverty programs, in 10 years all of the world’s population would enjoy basic social services – education, health care and nutrition, potable water and sanitation. Another $40 billion over 10 years would provide each person on this planet with an income level above the poverty line for their country.”
–Oscar Arias, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize

SOCIAL There is a social dimension to poverty, often targeting the most vulnerable in society. Sadly it is girls and women who suffer the most. Due to social and cultural structures in many developing nations, women have an unfavorable status, casting them as lower class citizens. This status is reflected during family mealtimes, where it is often cultural practice for women and girls eat whatever food is leftover after the men and boys have consumed their fill. It is no wonder that the most common nutritional deficiencies in developing nations are Protein Malnutrition and Micronutrient Deficiency Disorders (iron deficiency, iodine deficiency, vitamin A deficiency) – and the most vulnerable populations at risk for undernourishment are pregnant women, new mothers who breastfeed infants, and children.

HEALTH Not only will malnutrition cause a variety of developmental delays and health problems, but a hungry child will have a harder time learning in school, shorter attention spans, and suffer more absences due to illness (this is a relevant statistic that spans across the globe, describing many children in the USA.) According to the World Health Organization, poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities. Sadly, most of these deaths are attributed, not to outright starvation, but to diseases that move in when people’s vulnerable bodies have been weakened by hunger Not only does undernourishment negatively affects people’s health, but hunger also affects peoples productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute feelings of powerlessness and weakness

HUNGER IN THE USA When most Americans think about hunger, they usually think about famines occurring in far-away countries. In reality, hunger is a problem happening right here in our own nation. Last year, 35 million people, including 13 million children, in the United States did not have access to enough food for an active healthy life. Some of these individuals were provided for with emergency food sources, whereas others experienced hunger.

When talking about hunger, it is important to properly define how the term can be used. In the most basic sense, hunger is a condition where people do not get enough food to provide the nutrients for a healthy life. Food insecurity is when there is not enough food available to consume – the problem is ACCESS to quality and quantity food sources. This is a common term used when discussing hunger in the United States specifically, because there is more then enough food to go around.

WASTE According to the US Department of Agriculture, up to one-fifth of America's food goes to waste each year, which is estimated to be 130 pounds of food per person ending up in landfills. This is a startling statistic! Despite our abundance of food, large portions at restaurants and great variety available in supermarkets, we have a hard time avoiding massive waste. Hunger in America should not be a reality, when food ends up in the trash.

Giving Hunger A Face
It is easy to isolate hunger issues in America as being only among the homeless. Sadly, there’s hunger everywhere – even among hard working, employed individuals. According to Bread for the World Institute, “the face of hunger is the older couple who has worked hard for their entire lives only to find their savings wiped out by unavoidable medical bills; or a single mother who has to choose whether the salary from her minimum wage job will go to buy food or pay rent; or a child who struggles to concentrate on his schoolwork because his family couldn’t afford dinner the night before.” Hunger in America must be ended.

WHAT IS OXFAM DOING? According to Aim 1 of Oxfam’s 5 Aims, all people in the world “have the right to a sustainable livelihood.” In other worlds, they have a right to having their basic needs met, including food, shelter, water. Oxfam’s participation in equitable distribution of food involves a variety of action:

*Regional Programs– partners with local, community based organizations and empowers people to play an important role in the long-term development of their families, communities and regions.

*Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation – provides immediate assistance to save lives in the event of disaster. Once urgent danger has passed, Oxfam continues to help people rebuild thief lives and prepare for future crisis.
Besides work being done in developing nations, Oxfam also works to educate people in the USA about poverty and hunger issues.

*Policy & Advocacy – combines research, advocacy and campaigning to engage world public opinion and influence decision makers on behalf of people living in poverty.

*Public Education – fosters a broad understanding of the root causes of poverty and injustice and promotes the role each individual can play in a global movement for social change.

This is one of Oxfam’s most popular events! Held every November on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, the Oxfam’s hunger banquet is a powerful dramatization of the inequitable distribution of food and resources in today’s world. The way it works is tickets are sold, (as an Oxfam fund raiser) and people arrive knowing that they are attending a different sort of banquet. Guests are divided into groups with proportions representing the number of people in high (15 percent), middle (25 percent), and low- (60 percent) income groups, as determined by World Development Report statistics. By random drawing, Oxfam Hunger Banquet guests end up in one of the three groups and are served corresponding meals. Only a few people leave an Oxfam Hunger Banquet with satisfied stomachs; most receive little to eat. Yet all go away filled with new understanding about the problem of world hunger. This is a fun event, educational and life changing. It can be used in collaboration with other hunger related awareness projects, films, and events during a week of action.

If you are interested in having a Hunger Banquet at your school, WE WILL HELP YOU organize this fantastic event! Just contact Oxfam for a free copy of our Oxfam Hunger Banquet Planning Kit, which including detailed instructions, an organizers timetable and a script for the master of ceremonies. For more info, email: fast@oxfamamerica.org OR, feel free to call our office: 1-800-597-FAST

What you can this week:
You can start planning an Oxfam Hunger Banquet to take place on your campus this fall! Request the Hunger Banquet Planning Kit, gather a group of people who can help organize the event, as well as other campus and community groups, professors, etc. to take part. You can also start brainstorming a potential speaker to invite to the event.

What you can do today:
You can also hold a mini-fast of your own. Skip a meal, or give up something such as junk food, soda, movies, etc. Then donate the money you would have spent to Oxfam America’s anti-poverty work. You can also take a few minutes to check out the website, and read up about Oxfam’s Fast for a World Harvest. http://www.oxfamamerica.org/involved/art890.html

“Let all who are hungry come and eat”
(Passover Haggadah)
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