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Simply not enough food

By Andrew Hewett - posted Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Could you get by on one meal a day, or even one meal every two days?

Only eating one meal a day or less is increasingly becoming the reality for millions of people around the world as the global food crisis gains momentum.

On Wednesday, September 24, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith pledged $12 million to the World Food Program to assist in Afghanistan’s worsening food crisis.


Two days earlier, he announced $10 million in humanitarian aid to help 7.5 million Ethiopian people suffering an ongoing drought and increased cost of food and fuel. It’s a bad flashback to the past as Ethiopia faces a desperate food crisis that has been compared to the country's 1984-85 famine that claimed an estimated one million lives.

Closer to home, Oxfam Australia’s field staff on Gizo in the Solomon Islands are reporting that most families are eating only one meal a day, because that is all they can afford.

Children are not getting a balanced diet and as a result, the hospital is admitting more and more sick and malnourished children.

As many families now can’t afford school fees, children aren’t getting an education. They are also needed to stay at home and help look for food.

If they do go to school, the coconut eaten on the way home is often the only meal for the day, until dinner.

Stories of families cutting back on meals are becoming all too common across the world. The UN World Food Program made recent estimates that those living on less than $1 a day are cutting out protein and vegetables from their diet and those living on less than 50 cents a day are sometimes going days without meals.


This crisis makes Kevin Rudd’s trip to New York recently to attend a UN meeting on aid and development all the more important. More than 90 heads of state and governments, along with the CEOs of the world’s biggest businesses and hundreds of anti-poverty organisations, gathered for the High-Level Event to review the world’s progress on the Millennium Development Goals, the eight objectives agreed in 2000 for halving global poverty by 2015.

Goals include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, combating diseases such as HIV and AIDs and malaria, and improving maternal health. The food crisis was a major topic of discussion at these meetings.

The global food crisis can be attributed to a number of factors. Increasingly erratic weather, due in part to climate change, has seen crop failures in some key grain-producing countries. A growing demand for biofuels can be correlated with increasing food price rises over the past year, due to agricultural land being cleared for biofuel crops. Add to this population growth and a lack of investment in small-scale agriculture, and a picture starts to emerge.

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About the Author

Andrew Hewett is Executive Director of Oxfam Australia.

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