Even before the financial melt down, people living in poverty were suffering from rising fuel costs, skyrocketing food prices, and food shortages.
Around the world, before the financial crisis even began –
• 25,000 people (adults and children) were dying every day from hunger and related causes.
• More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people were and are women.
• Every six seconds a child died because of hunger and related causes.
Yet progress was being made and the number of hungry people in the world was going down. Now it is going up. The number of hungry people in the world, defined as those getting fewer than 1,800 calories per day, is projected to rise by 104 million people this year, pushing the world total to a record number of more than a billion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
As a result of the economic crisis, millions more people across the developing world have been plunged into poverty. The misery of the already poor has been intensified and the lives, welfare and futures of the most vulnerable of all, the children, have been endangered.
As incomes fall and food prices rise the burden on families can be tremendous. The high price of food means that those living in poverty spend a much higher proportion of their income on food than those who are better off, with the poorest third spending as much as 60% of earnings on food. The results are higher rates of malnutrition among children and mothers and higher rates of child and maternal mortality. Of the 9.2 million deaths of children under five years of age around the world, 35% are directly related to malnutrition. If unaddressed, the current crisis could:
• Increase rates of maternal anemia by 10-20%
• Increase prevalence of low birth weight by 5-7%
• Increase childhood stunting by 3-7%
• Increase wasting by 8-16%
The overall under 5 child mortality rate in severely affected countries could increase by 3-11%.
When household incomes are reduced, school fees, including the costs of uniforms and transportation, become unaffordable. Children and young people drop out of school. Many families are forced to send their children to work. Experts fear that the economic crisis will lead to increased trafficking in human beings as families become more desperate for income and the demand for cheap labor rises.
The World Bank has estimated that the crisis has set back the battle against poverty by seven years, with an additional 44 million children suffering permanent physical or mental impairment because of rising malnutrition last year. Across the world, a generation of children are paying and will continue to pay throughout their lives for an economic crisis they did not cause.