The Global Food Security Crisis

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In 2008 the United Nations declared a global food security crisis, but what exactly is food security? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, food security “exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO 2011). Based on the definition of food security, food insecurity is then defined as “a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development, and an active and healthy life” (FAO 2011). Food security and hunger are interrelated, but while there are around 852 million people hungry worldwide due to extreme poverty, up to 2 billion lack food security due to varying degrees of poverty. In this paper I will explore the global food security crisis in more depth, and also how food insecurity infringes on many other human rights, who is being affected by it, what is causing it, and what is being and can be done about it.

We can not look at food security more closely without first looking at hunger. The FAO measures hunger as the number of people who do not consume the daily energy requirement. Food security however is determined by looking at a combination of three elements: food availability, food access, and food utilization (WFP 2011). Food availability means that food must be available in sufficient quantities and on a consistent basis, food access means that people must be able to regularly acquire adequate quantities of food through purchase, home production, barter, gifts, borrowing, or food aid, and food utilization means that consumed food must have a positive nutritional impact on people (WFP 2011). Once these areas are analyzed the IPC, or integrated food security phase classification, classifies the food security situation according to five levels, called phases, which represent varying levels of severity. The phases are: generally food secure, moderate/borderline food secure, acute food and livelihood crisis, humanitarian crisis, and famine/humanitarian catastrophe (IPC 2011). Generally food security means that there is usually adequate and stable food access, moderately/borderline food insecure means that there is borderline adequate food access with recurrent high risk due to probable hazard events and high vulnerability, and acute food and livelihood crisis means that the area is highly stressed and there is a critical lack of food access with high and above usual malnutrition and accelerated depletion of livelihood assets. On the highest end of the scale, a humanitarian emergency means that there is a severe lack of food access with excess mortality, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible livelihood asset stripping, while a famine, or humanitarian catastrophe means that there is extreme social upheaval with complete lack of food access and other basic needs where mass starvation, death, and displacement are evident (IPC 2011).

The global food security crisis is affecting people all over the world, but the highest concentrations of those affected are in sub-Saharan Africa (204 million), Asia and the Pacific (156 million), India (221 million), and China (142 million). Other affected areas include Latin America and the Caribbean (53 million), The Near East and North Africa (39 million), and other industrialized nations such as Europe and the United States (9 million) (WFP 2011). Of those affected by the global food security crisis three quarters live in rural areas. These people are dependent on agriculture for their food and usually have no alternative source of income or employment so they are extremely susceptible to crisis. Many of the rural poor have no land of their own and work on other peoples farms barely earning enough to get by. Also, there is often no safe drinking water or electricity in these...
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