World ‘has more obese people than starving’

Campaigners rage at food inequality By Tariq Tahir in the Metro, front page, 23rd September 2011 More people in the world are now dying from obesity than malnutrition, anti-poverty campaigners say. 

There were 1.5 billion dangerously overweight people worldwide last year, while 925 million were underfed, according to the Red Cross. 

The figures were denounced as a ‘shocking’ demonstration that the world produces enough food but people still go hungry. The Red Cross called it a ‘double-edged’ scandal that fewer people died of starvation than were being killed by ‘excess nutrition’. 

The organisation’s Bekele Geleta said: ‘If the free interplay of market forces has produced an outcome where 15 per cent of humanity are hungry while 20 per cent are overweight, something has gone wrong somewhere.’ The problem is highlighted in the organisation’s annual World Disasters Report, which says the world is facing a growing food crisis.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said hunger existed not because there was a lack of food globally but because of poor distribution, wastage and rising prices that made food unaffordable. 

Food prices has spiked globally this year because of speculative commodity trading and climate change, it added. Meredith Alexander, head of the HungerFree campaign at Action-Aid, said: ‘We have always known that hunger is a man-made tragedy, not a result of natural scarcity.

‘At a time when almost 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night, the Red Cross’s latest figures show that another 1.5 billion are obese.’ One in 11 deaths in Britain is now linked with obesity, which causes heart problems and diabetes. 

Recent figures suggest nearly half of men and nearly as many women will be obese in Britain by 2030. Alex Cobham, head of policy at Christian Aid, said: ‘A rise in the numbers both of obese people and people in hunger on the face of it seems counter-intuitive. 

‘But in fact these two trends can be traced back to the same phenomenon – the common factor is inequality.’