Hunger costing poor nations $450 bln a year: NGO

The effects of hunger could be costing developing countries 450 billion dollars a year, an aid agency warned Tuesday, ahead of a United Nations summit on development.

The stark warning about the high cost — equivalent to 290 billion pounds or 350 billion euros — came in a new report from agency ActionAid, which listed the ways hunger hit the finances of already struggling nations.

Reduced worker productivity, poor health and lost education caused by malnourishment were all hitting some of world’s poorest nations in the pocket, said the campaigners.

“Fighting hunger now will be ten times cheaper than ignoring it,” urged ActionAid chief executive Joanna Kerr.

The report, which looked at hunger reduction efforts in 28 developing countries, found the majority were failing in their efforts to halve hunger by 2015, a key development goal.

This was one of the ambitious targets, called the Millennium Development Goals, which were first set out in 2000 and that will be reviewed at a UN summit in New York from September 21-23.

Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Pakistan and Lesotho came out worst in their efforts to cut rates of hunger, according to ActionAid’s analysis.

A lack of investment in agriculture and rural development, few legal rights to food in poor countries and little support for farming communities when harvests fail all contributed to the problem, said the group.

Countries that topped the campaign group’s rankings were Brazil, China, Ghana, Malawi and Vietnam, which had slashed hunger by increasing investment in small farms and introducing social protection schemes.