Six million more to go hungry because of global economic crisis, Save the Children says

Six million more people will go hungry as a result of the global economic crisis Save the Children revealed today as leaders prepared to meet at the G20 conference in Mexico. With the developed world’s finances in turmoil, the charity says the knock-on effects are stretching far beyond Europe’s borders, hitting the most vulnerable families in poorer countries hard.

Monday, 18 June 2012 - 6:00am

In a new report, A Chance to Grow, the charity says recent downgrades to economic forecasts mean millions more will face hunger by the end of 2013. If the World Bank’s “worst case scenario” should come to pass, meaning two of Europe’s larger economies such as Italy or Spain default on international loans, the number could reach a staggering 33 million.

Many African economies have been growing faster than their European counterparts but the global downturn means 6 million fewer people will be lifted out of poverty and left unable to afford a basic nutritious diet.

Save the Children’s new research analyses the effect of the economic crisis on developing countries. Chief Executive Justin Forsyth said:

“In a world already struggling to cope with hundreds of millions of hungry children, this is devastating news. While the developed world is picking up the pieces left behind by the banking crisis, for families in many parts of Africa and Asia the more pressing concern is how to feed their child.”

“The big question for governments is how they combine putting Europe back on a growth trajectory with protecting the rest of the world from the fallout that is already being felt.”

As the world debates how to do this, Save the Children's new report finds that a key way forward is to help poorer countries to establish, develop and finance social protection systems, which would act as a safety net during times of crisis.

“As the name suggests, safety nets are designed to catch people when they fall. By distributing items such as cash, food or other assets before crisis hits, governments can protect the poorest when it does.” Justin Forsyth said.

Putting these measures in place requires donors, including G20 nations, providing additional funding to the Rapid Social Response trust fund managed by the World Bank and asking the World Bank to improve social protection systems in low-income countries. 

“We understand why G20 leaders will spend most of their time debating the European economy, but just because the poorest children don’t have a seat at the table, it doesn’t mean they should be left with the crumbs. Leaders must set time aside to push through these crucial measures.” Forsyth said.

Save the Children researchers explain that a slowdown in private capital flows, increasing food prices, reduced trade from Europe and reduced aid flows have all played a role in transferring the problem towards developing countries.

Social protection helps to reduce poverty and hunger while also strengthening economic resilience for longer term growth. Despite this, investments in social protection have been declining since the start of the global economic crisis, the charity says.

The global crisis, alongside record food prices has already left an extra 75 million people without enough food, the charity says. With food prices edging towards record levels once more, and oil prices already at an all time high, the number of hungry children is likely to grow further.

Since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008, the number of hungry people has increased dramatically from 850 million to almost one billion, a seventh of the world’s population.

Save the Children has spokespeople available at the G20 summit. For interviews in Los Cabos, contact Kate Dooley on +44 (0)78 2583 3667. In London, contact Save the Children’s media unit on +44 (0) 207 012 6841 or out of hours on +44(0) 7831 650 409.

Notes to Editors

  • Projected rates of growth for 2012 and 2013 have been downgraded between June 2011 and January 2012. For developing countries as a whole, predicted growth has been downgraded from 6.2% in 2012 and 6.3% in 2012, to 5.4% and 6.0%.
  • It is estimated that if markets were to refuse finance for major European countries such as Spain or Italy, forcing them into unregulated defaults, a much wider financial crisis could result, engulfing private banks and other financial institutions. The World Bank estimates that the impact of such a shock would be to reduce developing country growth by a further 4.2% by 2013.
  • In order to estimate the effect of the Eurozone crisis on hunger, Save the Children extended the work of a recent World Bank policy research paper (Tiwari and Zaman 2010). This approach uses an income– calorie relationship along with data on average income and income distribution (from the World Development Indicators) to estimate the number of people globally living with insufficient income to meet their calorie requirements, under different growth scenarios.
  • The recent downgrade to economic growth in developing countries is expected to lead to 6.3 million more people in hunger by the end of 2013 than would have been the case had growth continued as had previously been projected. The potential impact of a severe shock to the Eurozone would be an additional 32.8m more people in hunger.
  • The increase in the global number of hungry people since the beginning of the financial crisis is based on the difference between the number of people suffering hunger globally as reported in FAO’s “Food and Security in the World Report” 2008 and 2010
  • The 2010 report is the most up-to-date available data
  • The difference in total numbers hungry between 2008 and 2010 is 75 million
  • The term “hunger” refers to undernourishment where calorie intake is below the minimum dietary requirement.