ROME, Italy – Ending world hunger is within reach, according to a statement made Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), in the fall of 2010. By U.N. estimates, the cost to end world hunger would be $30 billion dollars annually. This may seem large, but is tiny compared to the $675.8 billion that the US is expected to spend on military defense in 2013. The developed world certainly has the resources to end hunger if these resources are allocated properly.
Solving the problem is not only about giving citizens of the developing world meals, but also enabling them to create sustainable and food-secure communities. To do so requires empowering women in developing countries. 80% of agriculture in Africa and 60% of agriculture in Asia is done by women. Yet, it is more difficult for women to get credit from banks, making them unable to afford fertilizers and better seeds which would increase their crop yields. According to U.N. estimates, giving women access to credit could lift up to 150 million people from hunger.
Another method to end world hunger is providing school meals. The effect of this is twofold: children are fed in school, and they are then more inclined to stay in school, leading to more education and thereby greater development of society. Parents of girls in the developing world in particular are also much more likely to send their daughters to school if there are meals provided. In addition, locally sourced school meals mean that farmers, communities, and local economies all benefit from the purchase of local foods.
Technological and scientific innovations are also crucial in the fight to end world hunger. During the war in Iraq a program was set up that delivered food vouchers to refugees through text-messages, thereby saving time, effort, and money while providing them food. Innovative biotechnologies have been used to coat seeds to preserve them for longer periods of time and with room for many other improvements in technologies to provide better food access and food security.
According to the WFP, natural disasters are the leading cause of hunger, as many food insecure people live in areas more vulnerable to extreme conditions. The WFP has many programs focusing on reconstructing infrastructure and training communities to deal with natural disasters to better increase their food security.
In that same address in 2010, Josette Sheeran highlighted the importance of individual action and leadership in order to end world hunger. Individuals empowered by the internet and social media are now more able than ever to spread the word of causes that they are interested in. Those in the developing world have vast resources that can be mobilized via the internet.
Leadership to end world hunger is something that can be taken on by the individual, but it having leadership in the international community can create faster and larger impacts. $30 billion, roughly three and a half US aircraft carriers valued at $8.5 billion each, is all that is needed to make sure that no one goes hungry.