SOCIETY
Oxfam: “Each One out of Seven Is Hungry”
04 October, 2012

“There is nothing more important in the society than the opportunity to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner”

Lately, there have been ads on air that would really shock a viewer at TV-sets watching Georgian Public Broadcaster, saying that while the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion soon, it is possible that there won’t be enough food to feed us. According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), there are 925 million hungry people in the world and 98 percent of

them are in developing countries.

The British NGO Oxfam is directly connected to the topic. Georgian Journal talked with Keti Getiashvili, Country Director of Oxfam Georgia about the main challenges that the organizations are facing, about the reasons of starvation and their possible solutions.

G.J: Why Oxfam and other respective organizations believe that there is not enough food in the world today?

K.G: Oxfam was created in 1942 in response to a food crisis. Seventy years in, the world faces another – this time one that threatens us all. The emergency of 1942 was caused by the Second World War, today’s crisis is the product of a grotesque global injustices. Nearly one billion people face hunger every day, while the unsustainable patterns of consumption and production from which they are excluded have placed us all on a collision course with our planets’ ecological limits. The warning signs are clear. We have entered an age of crisis: of food price spikes and oil price hikes, of creeping insidious climate change. The 2008 spike in food prices pushed some 100 million people into poverty. Price rises in 2011 have done the same to 44 million more. These statistics mask millions of individual stories of suffering and heartbreak as families struggle to cope with deepening poverty. Households are falling into debt. Mothers are going without meals and healthcare. Elderly people are abandoned.

Despite huge increases in productivity and incomes over recent decades, global hunger is on the rise. Feeding the world is getting harder; our world is capable of feeding all of humanity yet one out of seven among us is hungry TODAY. Soon there will be nine billion of us on the planet. Our societies must grow to meet our needs, so that we can put enough food on the table for everyone. This happens not because there isn’t enough food, but because of the deep injustice in the way the system works, and because too many of the methods  we use today,  are using up and destroying the natural resources on which we all rely.

Oxfam started GROW campaign for better ways to grow, share and live together. This is a  campaign for the billions of us who eat food and over a  billion of  men and  women who grow it; to share solutions for a more helpful future in which everyone always has enough to eat.

G.J: What are the steps that should be taken first and foremost in this direction?

K.G: Each State is responsible for the food security of its own people, either by ensuring the production of food or by providing an income so that each family may purchase its own food. This is the basic condition for peace, democracy and citizenship.  There is nothing more important in the society than being able to enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner. So this is a fight that concerns all of us. First each individual, each government must assume his/its own responsibilities. Then the richest countries must support development in the poorest countries. And then it is a society as a whole, which should implement the solidarity that every human being will be capable of realizing practically.

G.J: What is the situation in Georgia in this respect and has any survey been conducted recently?

K.G: Oxfam together with partner organization AYEG in 2011 conducted polling over the phone among the families living below poverty line to evaluate the impact of price hike on the food products. The Polling has been carried out on the territory of Tbilisi (404 hundred households). All these 404 families are below poverty threshold and correspondingly receive social benefits. The polling has been carried out by means of a special questionnaire including questions for evaluation the food security.

There exists an opinion that a needy Georgian will never die of hunger, that there will always be a relative, an acquaintance, a neighbor or just some stranger who will give him a hand and share a piece of bread with him. Fortunately this is partially true.  But isn’t it tantamount to hunger or even worse when a mother is forced to make do with bread and water to at least provide sugar or dairy products to her child; or when a family has a sick or disabled member and other members of the family literally starve (at least for some days in a month) to provide treatment or medicines to him/her.

Such cases and families are a plenty. It’s not surprising that their conditions have considerably deteriorated after sharp increase in prices on foodstuffs. Lone and elderly people frequent the charitable “Houses of Mercy” and other “Catharsis Houses” to receive food.  The majority of the families purchases staple products in the “Stores of Consolation” chain or buys spoiled or leftover cheap products at the markets.

Despite the fact that we’ve carried out the study of only those households who live below poverty level, we can conclude that food security is a long- term challenge for the country. At the same time permanent increase in food prices further exacerbates this problem.

Enhancing food security cannot be achieved only by improving social protection, launching employment programs or conducting one-time assistance initiatives. It’s necessary to pursue all- around policy, which must result in proper social protection of socially vulnerable groups on the one hand and substantial improvement of primary food production and secondary food processing capacities in the country on the other.

G.J: What are the ultimate aims of the campaign?

K.G: We know that it’s possible to feed everyone on the planet, but many go hungry because the food system is broken. We are campaigning to ensure that in a world where there’s enough food to go by, no one has to go to bed hungry. The global food system works only for the few – for most of us it is broken.  It leaves billions of us who consume food lacking sufficient power and knowledge about what we buy and eat and the majority of small food producers are disempowered and unable to fulfill their productive potential. The failure of the system results from  the failures of the government – failure to regulate, to correct, to protect, to resist investing – which mean that companies, interest groups and elites are able to plunder resources and redirect flows of finance, knowledge and food.

The system is broken. But together we can fix it. We can grow in a better way – One that contributes much more to human well-being. We can grow more food, more fairly and sustainably. And we can come together to share solutions so that our children and our grandchildren can join us at the table.

 

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