While you are reading this story, 200 people around the world will die
from hunger. Four out of five of them will be women and their babies.
Every year, hunger kills more women than AIDS, malaria, and
tuberculosis combined-despite the fact that the world produces enough
food to sufficiently feed every woman, man, and child on the planet.
But around the globe, women eat the least, and they eat the
last-after the men, the elderly, the sick, and finally, the children.
Meanwhile, hunger takes a disproportionately high toll on women's
bodies and health-and subsequently on their children and unborn
babies. To end world hunger, we must begin with women. Join Marie
Claire in our international campaign Hunger: The Silent Emergency.
Food has never before existed in such abundance. The U.S. alone
produces enough to feed half the world-even though one in eight
Americans suffers from hunger. In Brazil, one in five people in cities
is overweight, while 40 percent can't afford to buy quality food.
India, nearly self-sufficient in food production, has twice the number
of underweight children as sub-Saharan Africa. If there's plenty to
eat, why are 852 million people around the world-mainly women and
children-on the verge of starvation?
To begin with, natural disasters such as severe droughts, earthquakes,
and tropical storms, and the disruption they cause to agriculture and
food distribution, contribute to the hunger crisis. Drought, for
example, is now the single most common cause of acute food shortages in
the world. Women, who account for up to 80 percent of the world's
farmers, are hit doubly hard: first by the loss of sustenance; second
by the loss of income through which they can purchase food from
War is another factor. Fighting displaces millions of people from their
homes, leading to some of the world's worst hunger emergencies. In
war, too, food is used as a weapon: "Soldiers seek to reduce food
available to their opponents by destroying livestock and systematically
wrecking local markets. Fields and water wells are often mined or
poisoned, forcing people to abandon their land," says a United
Nations spokesman. In places like Sudan, "humanitarian agencies
supplying food have been attacked; much of Darfur is inaccessible to
these agencies because of violence," says Iain Levine, program
director of Human Rights Watch.
In war-torn countries, food is frequently a barter tool through which
women are exploited. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),
Uganda, and many other countries, "food for sex" is well documented
by human-rights organizations: That is, food is withheld by
peacekeepers (as in the case of the DRC) or local soldiers (as is the
situation in Uganda) until women, at the brink of starvation, submit to
In other instances, politics play a major role. Zimbabwe, once the
breadbasket of Africa, now has up to 3.5 million people in need of food
aid, after the government kicked farmers off their land and demolished
thousands of homes in May 2005. "People who were forcibly displaced
have been left without housing, health, or educational services, and
they have no means of support," says Levine. "They are going hungry
because of deliberate policy of a corrupt government."
And finally, the marginalization of women plays a dominant role in the
hunger crisis. "Despite the fact that the majority of African farmers
are female, women are systematically bypassed by development assistance
programs and denied training, credit, and technology-and therefore
the opportunity to produce more food. Ending hunger begins with equal
opportunity for women," says Joan Holmes, president of U.S.-based The
Hunger Project. It's a sentiment echoed by the U.N., as well: "A
green revolution will happen only if it is also a gender revolution,"
according to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
"Society holds women responsible for all the key actions required to
end hunger: family nutrition, health, education, food production,
and-increasingly-family income," says Holmes. "Yet through
laws, customs, and traditions, women are systematically denied the
resources, information, and freedom of action they need to carry out
these responsibilities." The world has the financial and technical
resources to end hunger permanently, she stresses. But success will
only be possible if we put these resources in the hands of women.
It's easy to join the fight against world hunger: Snap up a Drew
Barrymore-inspired locket (the season's hottest accessory!) and a
portion of your purchase price will be donated to United Nations World
To order your locket, created by OTC International, go to Netaya.com or
call (800) 636-6884; cite style #2SSSN44G_17.5. MasterCard, Visa, and
American Express accepted. Please allow one week for the item to ship.
Sorry, no returns.