Hunger: a human rights violation?
According to the World Food Programme, the world produces enough to feed the
entire global population of 7 billion people yet one in eight on the planet still battle a
war against hunger every single day. To put this into figures, that is 821 million
people in the world (and possibly more) that go hungry daily with over 950 million
people suffering from chronic malnutrition as a result of this. Why does food
insecurity still exist if the right to adequate food is a basic human right?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a historic document adopted by the
United Nations General stating a list of rights which belong to every single person.
Article 25 reads “Food and Shelter for All”, guaranteeing that all individuals have the
right to food, freedom from hunger and access to food that is safe and nutritious. In
the 21 st Century where standards of living are higher and advances in technology
have sky-rocketed, hunger should not exist and the fact that it does is undoubtedly a
flagrant disregard for basic human rights. But the reality is, hunger does still exist
and we all have a responsibility and duty to protect the rights and freedoms of those
who are most vulnerable in society.
Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for human rights stated that interventions
must be put in place to confront the reasons why food crisis hurts some groups more
than others and to help clarify the imbalances in society that trigger the food crisis in
the first place.
Non-profit organisations such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme, Save the
Children, World Vision and The Food and Agricultural Organisation all make
tremendous and relentless efforts to fight hunger daily with the mutual aim of
ensuring that all people at all times have the access to safe and nutritious food,
regardless of their age, ethnicity, gender or where they live.
However, despite a range of diverse interventions that have continuously been
implemented to tackle malnutrition in developing countries, progress with hunger
remains incredibly slow due to several factors that make its rapid improvements
difficult. Persistent effort from the global health community is required to ensure that
everyone has access to and enough food for their lifespan, however, this is only
achievable with mutual effort from all parts of society, not just non-profit
Why is it so difficult to achieve zero hunger? Hunger is extremely complex to
analyse, however, in developing parts of the world, although varied in nature, is
mainly a direct outcome of interrelated factors (e.g. environment, economics,
education, agriculture, war and climate) that lead to a continuous cycle, which
condemns families to periods or a lifespan of hunger and malnutrition.
In general, public perception of victims of food insecurity assume that food
acquisition is an individuals responsibility, therefore neglecting to consider that actual
lack of availability of food and its access for many, removes individual blame and is
rather an issue with societal structures. Like every adult has the right to do a job and
to receive a fair wage for their work, the jobs must be there in the first place for
people to exercise their rights. This is the same for the acquisition to safe and
nutritious food; if more people viewed hunger as a violation of human rights then we
would understand that patterns of discrimination and neglect to others, prevents the
most vulnerable from claiming their rightful access to the food that is produced for
the world to eat. If we can understand this then the appropriate interventions,
besides those involving simply food fortification (the addition of nutrients to staple
foods) for example, (although beneficial) that directly address the repercussions of
hunger and starvation, especially for those already living in these situations.
In a world where enough food is produced to feed twice the current population of 7
billion, hunger is not an inevitable state and therefore should not exist. If the world is
rich in food then hunger is a violation of human rights if people cannot access it. All
parts of society have a duty to work together to protect these rights achieving zero