Even though the total number of people who report chronic hunger worldwide has dropped, new surveys caution those working to eradicate global poverty to not celebrate just yet.
When asked in a recent Afrobarometer survey how many times in the past year they had gone without food, 16 percent of the survey participants responded either “always” or “many times.” Even as global instances of chronic hunger drop as a whole, Africa remains the exception to the trend. The U.N. suggests that nearly 23 percent of the total African population meets the U.N.’s criteria for the chronically undernourished.
These unsettlingly high and stable chronic hunger rates mainly affect African children, who may experience stunting (low height), wasting (low weight), or micronutrient deficiency, if exposed to chronic hunger conditions between the ages of two and three.
The global community needs to begin rethinking hunger, starting with an evaluation of the African diet’s reliance on maize. Both Zambians and Malawians report receiving more than 50 percent of their calories from maize, and though maize is highly caloric, it offers mediocre nutritional qualities, and thus can exacerbate malnutrition even as it satisfies daily caloric needs.
Instead of maize, the U.N. and its associated nutritionists suggest a food fortification program that supplies rural grain mills with a range of goods with added iodine, zinc, and vitamin A to give ordinary foods an extra nutritional boost. Additionally, initiatives like ReSCOPE are using African schools to teach a version of organic farming that helps keep nutrients in the soil to promote sustainable, year-round crops that will help local farming cultures thrive.
These initiatives follow the idea of the “teach a man to fish” proverb. By creating and promoting a culture of food sovereignty that allows African farmers to create both the quantity and quality of the food needed to meet their local nutritional needs, global aid communities and governments may be giving Africa the long-overdue ability to stand on its own two feet.