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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder4. Chronic hunger and weak markets
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View the documentThe case for food aid
View the documentFood aid in support of agriculture and income generation
View the documentMarket-friendly food aid

The case for food aid

Hungry people find it hard to compete
4.2 Hungry people are not usually good competitors in the market place, and they are not best placed to respond to improved market incentives in the short term. They have limited resources to raise their productivity even if they wanted to sell a surplus of crops or livestock on the market tomorrow. Their persistent hunger compromises the potential benefits of investments and actions meant to stimulate economic growth. Thus, the removal of hunger is the first threshold to be crossed in the eradication of poverty.
4.3 That said, food aid is not necessarily the best or only way to help all 800 million people suffering chronic undernutrition in the 1990s. Where chronic undernutrition coexists with well-supplied markets offering food at accessible and stable prices, a better solution may lie with improved health and sanitation interventions, greater investments in literacy and nutrition education, and ration systems or cash transfers that successfully raise the purchasing power of households with the worst hunger.
4.4 By contrast, the case for food aid is strongest where chronic undernutrition co-exists with weak markets that are characterized by erratic supply and wide price fluctuations. The case for bringing food aid to complement markets depends largely on local market performance. The rationale is weak if markets function well and non-food interventions can effectively raise access to food among the hungry. But the case for food aid targeted to the most hungry is strong if there is insufficient food in the market and prices are volatile. Food aid can complement markets and offset their weaknesses in several ways: