Soaring food prices are causing hunger around the world

The 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI), released Thursday, revealed increasing levels of hunger among poor and working populations around the world.

The foreword, written by the heads of Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, the organizations responsible for the GHI, said that the report “indicates a terrible hunger situation, the result of the toxic cocktail of the climate crisis, the COVID pandemic- 19 and increasingly serious and protracted conflicts.

Rising food prices have been a key factor in the growth of world hunger over the past year. The rapid rise in inflation and the disruption of the supply chain networks of global capitalism are pushing up the prices of all basic consumer goods. The US Energy Information Authority has reported that nearly half of all US households that use natural gas to heat their homes will pay, on average, 30 to 50 percent more this winter for heating than last year.

Cars line up for food at the Utah Food Bank’s mobile pantry at the Maverik Center on Friday, April 24, 2020, in West Valley City, Utah [Credit: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer]

Real hourly earnings of American workers have fallen 1.9% since January. Workers in countries all over the world are facing a similar situation, which has become unlivable. More and more unable to pay their rent, to buy adequate food, to obtain fuel, they are pushed into the struggle.

They face a social system, capitalism, which exploits them, overloads them, then leaves them without the basic necessities of life. The producers of the world’s goods find themselves without the means of survival. Nowhere is this more palpable than with soaring levels of hunger around the world.

GHI’s report on hunger comes a week after the United Nations hosted a high-level event, Action to Support the Prevention and End of Famine Now. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General Qu Dongyu told the assembly, “Today we are facing unprecedented food crises on several fronts. Famine and hunger-related deaths are a reality today. … As we approach the end of 2021, the situation has continued to deteriorate. “

The report said hunger remained at “serious, alarming or extremely alarming levels in nearly 50 countries” and noted that “after decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment … is increasing.”

Three factors, according to the GHI, are behind rising levels of hunger in the world, which have pushed 41 million people “to the brink of famine” – “conflict, climate change and economic devastation. caused by Covid-19 ”.

Fueled by inflation and the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic, global food prices are skyrocketing. The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI), which measures the change in the international prices of a basket of food items, reported in September that prices were 32.8 percent higher than the previous year. . The prices of the most basic commodities have increased even more sharply; wheat is up 41 percent and maize 38 percent from September 2020.

These figures contain immense misery. According to an article published in Natural food in July, three billion people could not afford a healthy diet before the pandemic. Soaring food prices and rising prices for consumer goods in general have made the situation much worse. While 43 percent of the world’s population couldn’t afford a healthy diet before COVID-19, by the end of 2020 the numbers had risen to 50 percent.

A 32 percent increase in the price of food has a profound impact on the poor. In underdeveloped countries, a majority of the population will spend between 40 and 60 percent of household income on food. The poorest 20 percent of the population in the United States spent 30 to 40 percent of household income on food. Rising prices mean either an inability to pay rent and other expenses, or a reduction in the overall quality and calories of the food consumed.

The mass hunger and malnutrition facing a substantial part of the global working class is a social disaster, not a natural one. It is a huge crime that has been committed by the capitalist class all over the world.

The three drivers of world hunger identified by the GHI – conflict, pandemic economic dislocation, and climate change – are all results of the irrational and rapacious nature of capitalism.

The sharp increase in world hunger over the past year is primarily the result of the criminal mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic by capitalist governments around the world. The FAO cited “spikes in food prices, movement restrictions that limit market and pastoral activities, rising inflation, declining purchasing power” among the economic effects of the pandemic. on global food consumption.

There are now 2.37 billion people in the “food insecure” category. Most subsist on one or two small meals a day of inadequate nutrition, often just a grain fortified with a meager source of fat and a vegetable.

All over the world, working parents go hungry to make sure there is food on their children’s plates. They invent ways to prolong their food. They find ways to cook leftovers. They alleviate hunger pains with instant coffee. They eat rice with a pinch of fish paste and a drizzle of vegetable oil.

In much of the world, basic necessities are sold in small units, as that is all most can afford. Rice is bought by the cup; oil in a small, tied plastic bag.

The problems of malnutrition and hunger face the working class even in the richest country in the world. America’s downtown areas are food deserts, where the closest source of healthy food is often miles away and inaccessible by public transportation. All that is available at a nearby liquor store is spam and frosty flakes. Queues form outside food banks and often span a block. One in five Americans depended on food bank help in 2020.

Every day, more than 700 million people, or 8.8% of the world’s population, go to bed hungry, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). Hunger and malnutrition mean shortened life expectancies, delayed mental development, the premature death of loved ones; it means widows and orphans and parents without children.

The pandemic crisis, the push by the capitalist class to force workers back into factories, and soaring prices for food and other commodities are fueling explosive growth in the world class struggle. All over the world, workers are starting to move, in opposition to the capitalist class and in defiance of the corporate unions that have strangled their struggles for decades. They are engaged in a fight for their lives in a fight over how the resources of society will be allocated.

The vast wealth of humanity, the product of our collective labor, is sufficient to nourish, clothe, shelter and provide a rich and meaningful life for every human being on this planet.

These immense resources, however, are controlled by a handful of billionaires and super-rich, who have parasitically profited from the exploitation of the global working class and who squander that wealth. They got richer with the pandemic. In the year 2020, the world’s billionaires brought in an additional $ 1.9 trillion in personal wealth.

Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have clashed to take vanity flights into space, when a majority of the world’s population cannot afford healthy diets. Society can afford to feed everyone on earth, but it cannot afford billionaires.

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