Thursday is World Hunger Day, and much like the problem itself, it doesn't get a lot of attention. A closer look at the facts reveals how huge the scale of the problem is, with hundreds of millions of people across the globe suffering from undernourishment.
Global hunger speaks to a much larger issue of pervasive poverty and reckless management of resources. Billions of dollars worth of food is simply thrown away each year while millions of children starve to death. Understanding the sources and scale of the problem is crucial in order to know how to tackle it.
To put the problem in perspective, here are eight mind-blowing facts about the current problems of world hunger, plus one more bonus fact that could turn the whole conversation around.
1. Around 11% of the world, or around 800 million people, is undernourished.
Almost 11% of the world's population is undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. That means roughly 800 million people don't have enough food. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 98% of those people live in the developing world. Around 13.5% of the developing world's population, or 1 in 8 people, is undernourished.
While the statistical prevalence of hunger in Africa has gone down since 1990, the actual number of undernourished people has increased from 182 million to 233 million, given the continent's population growth over the last 25 years.
2. Sixty percent of those who are undernourished are women.
Given gender disparities across the world, particularly in poor countries, girls and women suffer when it comes to basic needs like getting enough food. "These inequities are thought to arise from the preferential treatment of boys in family health care-seeking behavior and in nutrition," reports the World Health Organization.
In some countries, women only get to eat after all the men of the household have been fed. These disparities even effect pregnant women, which means roughly 1 in 6 babies in the developing world have a low birth weight.
3. Nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 is caused by hunger — that's roughly 16,500 child deaths per day.
More than 6 million children die of illness related to hunger and malnutrition every year, according to the United Nations, and around 1 in 4 children in the developing world is underweight. However, that is just the beginning of the problem. Millions of children who manage to survive malnutrition are susceptible to stunting, or the underdevelopment of the body and/or brain, because of insufficient food. More than 160 million children under 5 in the world were victims to this in 2013.
4. There is enough food produced annually to feed the entire world, but it's getting wasted.
The world produces enough food to feed everyone, but about a third of it gets lost (due to financial or technical constraints, harvests die prematurely) or wasted, which equals to 1.3 billion tons of food annually.
The U.S. wastes 222 million tons, or about a third of the nation's food, which equals more than $48 billion in waste, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. That's almost as much food as the net production for all of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tons) every year.
Climate change plays a huge role in why more than 220 million are hungry in sub-Saharan Africa. "Increasingly frequent extreme weather events and natural disasters have taken a huge toll in terms of human lives and economic damage, hampering efforts to enhance food security," and sub-Saharan Africa bears the brunt of this, according to UNFAO. Conflict and fighting also play a large role in perpetuating poverty and civil unrest in many of the countries in this region, which has also contributed to the lack of food security.
6. Giving women more power over household decisions can reduce hunger for more than 150 million people.
"When women have more influence over economic decisions, their families allocate more income to food, health, education, children's clothing and children's nutrition," states UNFAO. Empowering women in developing countries is one of the most reliable ways to combat poverty and protect children.
A UNFAO report on the gender gap notes when women have more bargaining power, children have an improved nutritional status. Women spend a lot more of their income than men on essentials for their children, such as education, health and the household.
7. Hunger causes more deaths than malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.
Lack of food or proper nutrition kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined, according to the U.N. World Food Program. Though these diseases are undoubtedly important to address, this statistic highlights the urgency of addressing hunger. While millions of dollars are being spent to find a cure for AIDS, the cure for malnutrition already exists: It's as simple as food redistribution.
8. It only costs only 25 cents per day to feed a child properly.
"Studies show it is more difficult for children to learn without adequate food and nutrition," says UNWFP, meaning the effects of hunger are far-reaching and can affect a child for the rest of their life. As little as 25 cents per day will buy a cup of porridge, rice or beans. It costs only $50 to feed a child for a whole school year.
Extremely poor families often have to make the choice between sending their children to work in the fields in order to get food or sending them to school. As such, providing school meals can be a crucial factor in determining whether a child has an education.
9. Ending world hunger is possible.
According to the Hunger Project, despite what seem like insurmountable odds, ending world hunger is possible. Major strides have been made over the last 25 years: The percent of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half since 1990, and each day 17,000 fewer children are dying.
Of course, there's still work to be done, but just recognizing the problems the world is facing and realizing improvements can happen (as they already have) is an important first step in lifting hundreds of millions of people out of food poverty to end hunger.