Does Population Growth Lead to Hunger?

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These two words are unfamiliar to most people that have never faced these circumstances. However, these issues affect more than 10 percent of the population of the world. The UN mentioned that the proportion of undernourished people worldwide increased from 10.6 percent in 2015 to 11.0 percent in 2016. Also, in 2017, 151 million children under age 5 suffered from stunting (low height for their age), 51 million suffered from wasting (low weight for height), and 38 million were overweight. (UN) Simply, more than 815 million people worldwide need food to survive. Finally, UN sets zero hunger as their second sustainable development goals.

Former chairman of the UK Government's Sustainable Development Commission, Sir Jonathan Porrit, insists that overpopulation is the main reason of hunger and famine. It can be explained with the basic economic theory of supply and demand. The resources, such as land and water, are limited which means that the supply of food is limited but the demand driven by the number of people are growing. Finally, this situation creates a shortage of food. Also, an English political economist, Thomas Robert Malthus said that, "gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world." (Malthus) With regards to the linkage between population growth and world hunger, Joe Hasell examines the relationship between the two.

Hassell, a renowned scholar on global development, stated that the world population is increasing from less than 1 billion to more than 7 billion now; however, we can find that the number of famine victims is decreasing as compared to other decades. Hasell thought that this figure is coming from increasing agricultural production which means people can get more food from the same area of land than before. This idea can be supported by China's recent policy. China had a unique policy, One Child Policy. The Chinese government officially allowed only one child per family since the 1980s. This policy began to resolve shortage of food. However, China government now allows more than one child. Is this because the Chinese population was decreased? No, Chinese population never reduced since the 1980s, it is still increasing. It is proved by Hasell's opinion - while the production of agriculture continuously increases, China has been able to feed a growing population. Hasell mentioned that, "most famines of the 20th and 21st centuries, conflict, political oppression, corruption, or gross economic mismanagement on the part of dictatorships or colonial regimes played a key role." (Hasell) North Korea is another example of this idea. South Korea has been supporting North Korea to assist the famine cause, funding more than 3 billion dollars since 1995. However, the condition of North Korean famine is getting worse. Because most of this support is going to people of high socioeconomic standing. Therefore, it can be assumed true that famine is caused by conflict, political oppression, corruption, or gross economic mismanagement on the part of dictatorships or colonial regimes.

Hasell said that the population growth has increase, but the rate of hunger has decreased, and the number of people dying because of malnutrition has gone down from 500,000 during the 1990s to 300,000 presently. He also wanted to look at individual countries' experiences rather than the world level by using Global Hunger Index (GHI). GHI states that composition of 100 measures that include four indicators: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality for every 8 years since 1992. It is clear that countries which have higher level of GHI seems to have higher level of population growth for 25 years. However, if we compare GHI score in both 1992 and 2017, we can find that most of countries' GHI score decreased except Iraq. In addition, there was a large amount of decrease in GHI score in countries which had higher level of population growth. Some countries which saw high level of GHI in 2017 also saw high level of GHI in 1992, and these countries' GHI has fallen quickly. Instead of population, hunger is caused by poverty and interactions on an array of social, demographic, political, and societal factors.

Hasell's opinion is hunger and famine is not caused by population growth. Then, what is the reason of hunger and famine? As Hasell mentioned, hunger and famine caused by poverty and interactions an array of social, demographic, political, and societal factors

The first reason of hunger and famine is poverty. People who live in low GDP countries have trouble with production and supply of food, and face food insecurity, so it causes hunger. In the low- and middle-income countries, one of three children are struggling with chronic undernutrition. These children cannot access to nutritious foods, clean water and health care because they do not have enough income to afford it. World Bank's statistical facts support this idea. 767 million people in the world, which is 10.7 per cent live with less than 1.9 dollars per day, 2.10 billion people live with less than 3.10 dollars per day. In this situation, children have to live lack of food and unclean water, etc. Finally, it causes malnutrition and diseases. Also, only 10 per cent of children can be served medical service to recover from acute malnutrition.

Secondly, conflict also recognized as one of reason of hunger and famine by UN Security Council in May 2018. When conflicts are prolonged, and institutions are weak, the rate of hunger and malnutrition is higher than other countries. UN estimated that more than half of 815 million people, who fight with hunger and famine live in countries affected by conflict. Through history, conflict is one of the main reasons of hunger and famine. Armed conflict causes hunger because some people use food as a weapon. Opponents destroy food stocks, livestock, or burn land to remove the source of food. Burundi is one of example. Burundi has been conflicted by ongoing civil war for 15 years. Now, only one of third total population can eat enough food, and almost 60 per cent population is struggling with malnutrition. Agriculture was actually main resource of Burundi economy and more than 90 per cent people were worked in field of agriculture, but now almost 60 per cent of population face hunger. South Sudan and Yemen also have same situation. Civil war in these countries causes mess displacement and damaged field, so it creates crop failure. Therefore, more than 20 million people face hunger and famine in these two countries.

Last reason of hunger and famine is climate change. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations mentioned that, "Climate change is undeniable. Climate action is unstoppable. And climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable." The UN's recent report on the food security and malnutrition states that the climate change has affected food supply in many countries. Especially, drought and flood cause diminish of livestock and productivity of agriculture. Some countries, such as Zambia, are often struggle with hunger and famine because of drought and flood. The productivity of agriculture and amount of livestock in these countries damaged by too much or too less rainfall. In addition, El Ni?±o weather system makes this situation worse. World Bank predicts that more than 100 million people in the world will face hunger and famine because of climate change.

Porrit and Malthus insist that hunger and famine is caused by population growth but Hasell denies 'Malthusian' explanation. Even though the global population has grown, the famine death rate has decreased. In some countries which have High level of GHI shows higher level of population growth, but this high level of GHI is not caused by population growth, it is decreased compare to the GHI score in 1992. Rather than population growth, poverty and interactions an array of social, demographic, political, and societal factors are more closed to the reason of hunger and famine. Poverty causes lack of food and healthcare, so it is directly affected to children's malnutrition. Also, amount of livestock and land for agriculture are damaged by conflict of countries. Lastly, climate changes cause less productivity of agriculture because crops cannot be grown well if there is too much or too less rainfall. To solve this issue, many companies, rich countries, and organization have support food. Alex Renton mentioned that we have to provide education to farmers, target infant malnutrition and serve GMOs technology to them. Thus, save people who fight against hunger and famine to live. A famous author, Zoe Weil said, "All it takes for generosity to flow is awareness. By actively pursuing awareness and knowledge, we can make choices that cause less harm and greater good to others in the global community of our shared earth." Now it is time to make choice that cause good to others in the global community of our shard earth and overcome global issues, hunger and famine.

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Does Population Growth Lead to Hunger?. (2019, Dec 30). Retrieved April 23, 2024 , from

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