Drought and famine are not extreme events. They are not anomalies. They are merely the sharp end of a global food system that is built on inequality, imbalances and – ultimately – fragility. And they are the regular upshot of a climate that is increasingly hostile and problematic for food production across huge swathes of the developing world.

This is the view of Olivier de Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. This follows on from his earlier statement:

Globalization creates big winners and big losers. But where food systems are concerned, losing out means sinking into poverty and hunger. A vision of food security that deepens the divide between food-surplus and food-deficit regions, between exporters and importers, and between winners and losers, simply cannot be accepted.

De Schutter challenging the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) outdated stance on food security (2011)

These are just a part of a vigorous debate underway about the scale, nature, causes and solutions around world hunger.  There have been fundamental questions about the figures so often quoted and taken for granted and on the impact of recent food price hikes on the poor.

A recent research report by Duncan Green and Naomi Hussain Living on a Spike: How is the 2011 food price crisis affecting poor people? argues that:

…shocks of this kind work to increase and perpetuate inequality, producing consistent patterns of ‘weak losers’ and ‘strong winners’. Key findings show that poor people do not merely cope by working harder, eating less, living more frugally, drawing down resources and assets, and managing on a day-to-day basis. They also respond politically: they contest official explanations of the causes, and they roundly criticize their governments for failing to act effectively.

The 48 page report can be downloaded now.


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Feel free to check out our hunger module that includes a case study on Somalia, debates, statistics, historical examples of famines and a 2010 infographic on the geography of hunger.