Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Numbers of hungry in South Asia hits a 40 year high

The global recession has added 100 million people in South Asia to the numbers who are always hungry. This brings the number to a 40 year high, or just over 400 million total. These numbers are according to a new UNICEF survey of the region.

From the Taiwan Times, this Associated Press article further reviews the numbers.

The region's poor, who have borne the brunt of the economic trouble, desperately need governments to spend more money on food, health care and education to alleviate the crisis, said Daniel Toole, a regional director for the U.N. Children's Fund, or UNICEF.

At least 405 million people in South Asia suffered from chronic hunger in 2007-2008, up from 300 million in 20004-2006, according to a UNICEF report Tuesday.

"Without urgent, inclusive government response, the poor of South Asia, nearly 20 percent of the world's population, will sink further into poverty and malnutrition with long-term negative consequences for growth and development in the region and globally," the report said.

The report focused on the economic crisis's impact on women and children in eight South Asian nations _ Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Nearly 33 percent of South Asia's 1.8 billion people eat less than the minimum recommended daily requirements. Three-quarters live in households earning less than $2 a day, the report said.

The poor spend more than half of their income on food, which has become more expensive and made life even more difficult for them, it said. Nearly half of the region's children are malnourished.

UNICEF also criticized India for not doing enough to lift the poor up during the period of economic boom. They say that their efforts were wasted instead on too much military spending. They also accuse Pakistan of the same high military spending, instead of helping those in poverty.

From the Financial Times, writer James Lamont covers this angle to the story.

Aniruddha Bonnerjee, an economic and social policy consultant for Unicef, said there had been “stagnation” in the fight against malnutrition and that stubbornly high food prices posed a growing threat to poor families. He warned that with India’s growth rates now almost half what they were two years ago, New Delhi would find it more difficult to boost spending on health, education and food to nurture its human capital.

“If there was no progress against malnutrition and hunger when growth was higher, how are you going to do it now?” he asked.

Mr Bonnerjee said some Asian countries had managed to halve poverty over five years during times of high economic growth; India was falling far short of that achievement. Mr Singh’s championing of “inclusive growth” was electioneering and had left large swathes of the population untouched, he said.

Unicef was also critical of high military budgets in the region at the cost of social protection. India is modernising its armed forces and projecting its power more widely than in the past.

“A number of countries in south Asia decide to invest in the military and not to increase investment in their people.” said Daniel Toole, Unicef’s regional director “Budgetary allocations can be more than 10 per cent in the military, while education is only 2 per cent.”

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