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2004 Letters to the Editor

(When publishing emails or letters sent to us, Hunger Notes typically does not publish full names of those writing letters, in order to protect the privacy of those writing. If you wish your full name to be used, please let us know.)


October 21, 2004

Dear World Hunger Education Service,

I am writing to seek information on ways that I can help people suffering from starvation and poverty in Ethiopia.  As a sophomore student in my honors English class I am taking on a social action project. Exceeding this project to become involved and to make a difference to those in need.  How can I be of service to this great cause?  What would you advise I do to help those in Ethiopia?

I would appreciate this information by November 1, 2004. I look forward to your reply.

Willing to help,

N.P. Rialto CA

Dear N.P.

A great question.  It is one without an easy answer for you.  Let me suggest a few possibilities.

Ethiopia is a country far away and with some major problems.  You are one person. A somewhat bleak picture in terms of doing something perhaps. Nonetheless we should not be discouraged necessarily by this picture. Sobered perhaps in terms of recognizing the difficulty involved.

One thing you can do, and which I would suggest, is giving money to help poor people in Ethiopia.  A very poor person lives on $1 a day, and a contribution of this amount would enable you to consider that you were helping at least one person.  A contribution of this amount might well be difficult for you to afford, but of course that in part is the point--helping people does involve giving up something.  It is possible to give a contribution to the World Food Program that will be used for Ethiopia. WFP is very active in providing food assistance to Ethiopia. Its website is at www.wfp.org. and it will be relatively easy to find what it is currently doing in Ethiopia.  You can make an on-line donation to WFP specifically for Ethiopia can be given at  http://www.wfp.org/index.asp?section=4  Checks can be sent to

Friends of the World Food Program
P.O. Box 11856
Washington, DC 20008

The Friends of the World Food Program website is at  http://www.friendsofwfp.org/ .

A second thing you can do is to try to understand why so many people are poor and hungry in Ethiopia.  A good subject for a paper for you. A third thing is to try to communicate your understanding to others--is there any mechanism for doing this at your school? 

Fourth is joining with other people that are interested in the same or a similar issue.  For example, Bread for the World has tried to understand hunger issues in Ethiopia and elsewhere and use its understanding to influence U.S. government policy.  For big issues, working with others is very important.

Very best wishes for your efforts. Many years ago, when I was 20, I hitchhiked around the country as an adventure.  I spent a fair amount of time in California, often as a very poorly paid agricultural worker--$.03 for a pound of cotton!  I began to think--why am I/why are agricultural workers/why are people poor--the beginning of  a lifetime of thinking about the subject!

Editor, Hunger Notes


October 21, 2004

Dear Hunger Notes,

Do you perhaps have statistics for the number of children who die each day from malnutrition? The only source I have comes from an anarchist website and it is 35,000 per day, although a book I have suggests 40,000 per day. Thanks, J.B.

There are no really good statistics/facts on the number of children that die each year, there are only (rough) estimates. (Let alone the number that die from malnutrition.) The estimates are that between 8 and 10 million children die each year.  10 million children per year is 27,400 per day.  Most children that die are poor. Malnutrition plays a key role in their deaths.  Various studies have estimated that malnutrition plays a key role in 50 percent of child deaths.  Children die from malnutrition.  Malnourished children die also because malnourishment weakens their resistance.  Thus they die from childhood diseases such as measles and bad colds (known--since the children die--as acute respiratory infection).  So 50 percent of 27, 400 is 13,700 children that die from hunger and hunger-related causes per day. This is about as good an estimate as we have.  There was a good 2003 Lancet article on the topic of child deaths, and we will post the link when we find the article.

Editor, Hunger Notes


May 30, 2004

Dear Hunger Notes,

I am an eighth grade student at Hermosa Middle School in Farmington, New Mexico. We are currently working on a research project, and I have selected to research the subject of world hunger.  I am writing to you to obtain information about this subject. I hope that you are able to respond and help me with my research project.

How can you prevent world hunger? In what country is world hunger most common? How many people die a year from world hunger? Are they mostly children or adults? How has world hunger increased or decreased over the last year? 

Thanks very much, K.W.

Dear K.W.,

Thanks for a very interesting set of questions, which I will try to answer as best I can!

How can you prevent world hunger?

This is the most difficult question of all. You may want to read the answers to the others first!  I am answering the question as: "How can we prevent world hunger?." The basic answer is that it is very difficult to end world hunger, and to do so we must extend our understanding and support across the world, work with those who are poor and hungry and their advocates around the world, and take three specific actions to reduce hunger and poverty: increasing our knowledge, acting politically, and contributing financially to reducing hunger. At least two major causes of hunger exist in the world: conflict, and (what we have called) harmful societies, which direct most of the benefits of society towards a small percentage of the population, leaving many poor and hungry. Our past efforts to describe these key aspects appear at: Conflict and Hunger; Harmful Economic Systems  We have described the basic outlines of what we think people in the United States should be doing to reduce hunger in our editorial  New Year's Resolutions--For Our Readers!--On Helping Hungry People. Essentially we believe that people in the United States should learn more about hunger, contribute to a U.S. organization that is working directly to reduce hunger (such as CARE or Oxfam America), and take action to influence United States government policies that impact poor and hungry people (probably best through such organizations as Bread for the World or Results). 

In what country is hunger most common?

There are only estimates of this. Probably the best estimate is that of the (United Nations) Food and Agriculture Organization. It estimates the total amount of food available to the country (production of food plus imports of food) and then applies an estimated income distribution for the country (the rich receive a much greater share of the total income of the country--the poorest 20 percent of the people in most countries only receive something like 2-5 percent of the total income of the country) to arrive at an an estimation of how much food the poorest people receive and how much that falls short of their needs.  This is expressed as food insecure as a percentage of the population. This is a far cry from actually knowing each individual who is hungry in the world and adding the numbers up. I will leave it to you to find the answer to this question, but I will tell you how to find it. The page of the FAO website on which this information is found is located at http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/j0083e/j0083e03.htm#P1_33

How many people die a year from world hunger?

One estimate, given by James Morris, director of the World Food Program, is that a child dies every five seconds from hunger-related causes. See Little Attention Given To the Role of Food in Combatting AIDS and To Chronic Hunger, World Food Program Director Says. We leave it to you to multiply this out to get estimates for a year.

Are they mostly children or adults?

Mostly children. Actually it is not clear to Hunger Notes that adult deaths from hunger are ever counted in official estimates of deaths from hunger.

How has world hunger increased or decreased over the last year?

The world is not "on top enough" of hunger to give yearly estimates. Decade estimates are provided by FAO. According to the FAO the number of chronically hungry people increased by nearly 60 million in 26 countries over the past decade.

March 20, 2004

 Dear Hunger Notes. I am a senior at Shelby High School in Shelby, Michigan.  I am currently in a college English class where we are working on senior projects.  The topics for our senior projects are focused on local, national, and global problems.  Over the course of the semester, we are researching our problems and eventually will be presenting them to the community.  Our projects are the most important part of our college English class and are required to graduate.  The problem that I chose to research was world hunger. I am writing to your organization in hopes that you can answer a few questions of mine [which appear below].  S.R.

Dear S.R. Here are the answers to most of your questions.  Thanks for asking them--they are very good questions about an important topic.

1. How can other people get involved in your organization or other organizations to help stop hunger?

Please see our "you can--help reduce hunger" page at http://www.worldhunger.org/reduce.htm.  Basically what we say there is:

There are two key ways in which you and other people in the United States can help reduce hunger and poverty: understanding-- this implies learning-- and action. Action can take three important forms: 1) influencing public policy, 2) contributing financially, and 3) working directly with poor people.

Learn about hunger and poverty. What are the situations confronting poor people in the United States and in the rest of the world, and what are the underlying factors causing their hunger and poverty? A key step in helping poor people is to increase your understanding through learning. For more information, please see the Hunger Notes department, "Learn More About Hunger."

Take action.

Influence public policy to support poor people. Governments play a key role in allocating resources and adopting policies that influence the lives of poor and hungry people. Use your U.S. citizenship and self-empowerment to influence the nation's voice, including changing government policies. Hunger Notes strongly suggests that you join one (or more) U.S. anti-hunger advocacy/public policy organizations or other organizations that deal with key issues affecting poor people.

Contribute financially to reducing hunger and poverty.  While it is, in general, not possible to support individual poor families, it is possible to contribute to organizations that do support poor people. See our list of some of those organizations below. 

Work directly with poor people.            

2. How does the money that people donate get put to use?

I will reply for Hunger Notes and the World Hunger Education Service only.  We have a very small basic budget-- approximately $4,000-- which we use for education about hunger and poverty in the world and in the United States. This is used for basic expenses such as telephone and web costs.  Other people and myself who contribute articles to Hunger Notes are not paid.

3.  What age group is most affected by hunger?

Infants, children and pregnant women.

4. How and where do malnourished people receive help if they need it?

In the world today for poor people it is pretty much "root hog or die."  There is an international crisis response system that does succeed in providing food for a significant period of time to probably several millions of desperate people in many of the largest very bad situations, such as Ethiopia recently and in the past.

5. What ethnic group is most affected by hunger?

Don't think of it in terms of ethnic groups.  Think of it in terms of current and past governments and political and economic structures. Hunger is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered through centuries of the slave trade, "governmental" structures that permitted it, control by whites and "white"/Western governments, and since independence in the 1960s, governments which in many countries have been benefiting the elites as a high or higher priority than benefiting the average person or the poor.

6.  What other health problems besides malnutrition come from hunger?

 Poor nutrition is the critical factor in deaths from many other diseases, due mainly to lack of strength to fight off infection. This happens in childhood, principally. Measles, for example, kills many children who are hungry/undernourished, where they would survive if they had adequate nutrition.

9. What is the biggest factor for the cause of hunger?

I believe it is economic and social structures, including governments, that oppress people leading to poverty and hunger, or-- at best-- leave them "dangling in the wind"-- exposed to an extremely difficult life with minimal resources and only token support from the more prosperous.

Editor, Hunger Notes


March 20, 2004

Dear Hunger Notes. My research is focused on the reasons for, and the effects of, modern day agriculture including the use of genetically modified organisms.  I understand that some of the answers could be lengthy, but I just need a short opinion response from you.  I would like to have them answered by 3/22/04 if possible.  [Questions appear below.] Thank you so much for your time and knowledge. T. R.

1. Why do you think that countries decide to use genetically modified organisms? The potential for increased production, and political pressure.

2.  How do organisms such as hybrid crops and parasitoids affect other organisms and our environment?  Genetic information is exchanged by plants.  Thus, new plants can provide new genetic information to other plants.  The environmental impact is not clear, but there is no reason to suppose that it will be universally beneficial.

3.  What factors lead the United States to its stance of supporting industrial agriculture including GMO's?  Were there any outside organizations that had an influence?   See answer to question 1.

4.  How has modern day agriculture affected our economy?  It has vastly increased production of food and other agricultural crops and released many people to work in other sectors.

5.  How has it affected our trade with other countries?  The agriculture sector in the United States has made the United States a substantial exporter of agricultural products, principally because of high productivity and a large amount of land, but als in part because the United States (and other developed countries) support r agricultural producers with subsidies, raising production,leading to substantially increased exports.

6.  What are some limiting factors on the use of GMO's? Understandable caution. 

7.  What problems exist in our modern day global agricultural system?  Lagging agricultural production in many regions of the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa, and especially among poor farmers.

8.  What are some possible solutions to these problems?  More focus on the problems of developing country agriculture, especially that of poor people. 

Editor, Hunger Notes


March 13, 2004

My name is E. R. and I am doing a project for my morality class on world hunger. I am required to interview someone from an organization about my topic. Could you please answer the following questions and tell me any other pertinent information? Any response would be greatly appreciated.

-What is hunger?

-How does it affect individuals and society?

-How widespread is it?

-What are its causes?

-Why should we be concerned?

-What can be done about it to make the situation better?

Thank you,

E. R.

Milwaukee, WI


Dear E.R.

Thanks for your important questions. HN answers follow.

What is hunger? How does it affect individuals and society?

The more technical term for (severe) hunger is malnutrition. Malnutrition is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.  Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is by far the most lethal form of malnutrition/hunger and the one referred to when world hunger is referred to. Children are its most visible victims. Malnutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year. These young children are prematurely— and needlessly— lost.

First recognized in the 20th century, PEM’s full impact has been revealed only in recent decades. Infants and young children are most susceptible to PEM’s characteristic growth impairment because of their high energy and protein needs, and their vulnerability to infection. Globally, children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year (put yourself in their place; almost half of their time in life is spent being sick). Malnutrition magnifies the effect of every disease. Death rates from diseases-- measles being an important example-- are much higher when children are malnourished. Adults who have been malnourished are smaller than they otherwise would be and may have reduced physical and mental ability. See the article link here for a more complete explanation: http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/global/Endingwhunger/field.htm

How widespread is it?

PEM affects one out of four children worldwide: 150 million (26.7 percent) are underweight while 182 million (32.5 percent) have stunted growth. Geographically, more than 70 percent of PEM children live in Asia, 26 percent in Africa, and 4 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Their plight may well have begun even before birth with a malnourished mother (World Health Organization 2002).

What are its causes?

 Harmful economic systems (including conflict) and poverty, which is frequently brought about by harmful economic systems.  By "harmful economic systems" we mean economic (and political) systems that are in place to benefit a small part of society, and certainly not the poor and hungry. Conflict is also an important factor.

Why should we be concerned?

This is for you (and each one of us) to answer.  The world's religions and their members have given great emphasis to relieving hunger and poverty.  It has to do with empathy for others and understanding that we have basic needs and luxuries, and that those of us who are able to afford luxuries, need to contribute to help those who can't meet their basic needs.

What can be done about it to make the situation better?

 Understand what is happening in the world and contribute money and your effort to improve the situation for hungry people.

February, 2004

Dear Editor,

Will there be a designated World Hunger Day in 2005?  I am the managing director of a theatre and we were considering producing Harry Chapin's LIES AND LEGENDS.  As he was so associated with World Hunger Day, we thought we could tie-in a benefit for the cause. Thank you, Chris

Dear Chris,

World Food Day is October 16th. For information on U.S. observance, see the U.S. World Food Day organization page at http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/.  Harry Chapin was associated with World Hunger Year, and musical events are done to raise money for that organization's activities. See http://www.worldfooddayusa.org/. This may be the organization you are thinking of.  Both organizations are very worthy organizations and would benefit from your fundraising activities. --The Editor

Dear Editor,

I belong to a social concerns group in my parish. Recently I read an article about the contests to see how much a person can eat. I have asked for a list of the events for 2004. I don't know how to go about it but I would love to see hunger taskforces in the cities of these events hold food drives on the days of these events. Thanks for listening. Jane Temp

Dear Jane,  A very interesting concern.  Let HN know if you get the list of events and we can see what people in the cities with events suggest. --The Editor

Dear Editor,

Can you tell me if there are any organizations that have gotten into China to help with hunger there?? Thanks for any info. Patrick O'Donnell

Dear Patrick,

China is actually one of the relatively few poor countries in the world that is actually reducing the number of hungry people. It does have a number of pro-poor policies such as trying to maintain a relatively equal income distribution. As a member of the United Nations, it participates in the programs of UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and UNICEF that work to reduce hunger in various ways, such as by increasing agricultural productivity.  Hunger Notes is not aware of any U.S. or international private voluntary organizations (PVOs) that work in China. --The Editor

To: John Stossel, ABC News

(cc: Hunger Notes)

I've never responded to a TV show, radio show, or even a newspaper article, but I found ABC's story on "the International Federation of Competitive Eating" to be one of the saddest, most disgusting stories I've ever seen. I kept waiting for you to jump in and say Gimme a Break ....

I'm no Mother Teresa, but how can you consider the airing of 400-lb. (or even 100-lb.) people stuffing their faces to be entertaining, when the Institute for Food and Development Policy reports that:

At least 700 million people do not have enough to eat, and

Every year hunger kills 12 million children worldwide ... ????

Why not take the IFOCE founders and their "champs" to a Third World country or to their local shelters (if they can lift their faces out of their pizzas long enough) to see how their money could be spent on helping other people rather than bragging about winning a chicken trophy?

I don't know what's worse: how gluttonous we've become or the fact that it's now considered "entertainment" ... or - worse yet - "news???" How pathetic.

I'm sure that all of you at ABC will really lose sleep over this viewer's opinion.


Denver, CO


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