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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder1. Food security: sustaining people
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentTimes of plenty do not rule out hunger
View the documentHumanitarian crises and acute hunger
View the documentHunger within the household
View the documentThe chronically poor and hungry
View the documentThe geography of hunger

The chronically poor and hungry

1.13 Thirdly, there are households with low and variable incomes, limited assets, few marketable skills, and few powerful advocates to act on their behalf-the chronically poor. These include many smallholder farmers, landless and/or daily labourers, livestock herders, and the unskilled unemployed. Numbering hundreds of millions, these people earn less than US$ 1 a day, of which roughly 70 percent tends to be spent on food consumption, and they subsist in an abject poverty that never rules out hunger (WFP 1995a; FAO 1995b).

Hunger perpetuates poverty

1.14 Persistent hunger, largely found in low-income food-deficit countries, is a stumbling block to efforts aimed at eliminating poverty, and is thereby self-perpetuating. Chronic hunger is part of a vicious cycle of low productivity and earnings, ill-health, indebtedness and malnutrition. Past investments made by vulnerable households are eroded by chronic hunger, and future incomes are also compromised. Hungry children cannot derive full benefits from their education, even if they manage to gain access to formal education. Poor women cannot invest sufficiently in their own, or their childrens' future, since they are fully preoccupied by the multiple problems associated with current hunger.
1.15 Overlapping with the group that faces persistent calorie shortages is an even larger number of people exhibiting micronutrient deficiencies due largely to dietary inadequacies. Roughly 2 billion people are currently at risk of iodine deficiencies which can cause considerable brain damage and cretinism as well as goitre. Almost 500 million women are thought to suffer from iron deficiency anaemia, leading to poor health and low birth-weights. Over 200 million children experience inadequate consumption of vitamin A (WHO 1992; UNICEF 1995). The latter is a deficiency responsible for mental and physical impairment among children, blindness and increased risk of death from common diseases.
1.16 Addressing such micronutrient deficiencies is a relatively inexpensive and cost effective exercise, particularly when compared to the scale of emergency interventions needed to respond to widespread nutritional failure. Ignoring mild symptoms of malnutrition today can lead to acute symptoms tomorrow.