Poverty is the main obstacle that countries around the world face to eradicate hunger.

The United Nations 2030 agenda is a global plan of social, economic, and environmental objectives, advocating for peace, justice, and effective institutions. Thus, eradicating hunger from the planet is one of the Sustainable Development Goals of this agenda.

First, we must distinguish two forms of hunger: open or epidemic and hidden or endemic. Epidemic or open hunger is one that occurs thanks to specific situations in a specific region or locality, such as plagues that affect agriculture and impede the supply of food, and the realization of armed conflicts, which generate many deaths and misery among people in the affected countries. On the other hand, endemic or hidden hunger is one that occurs due to malnutrition, that is, when people do not have access to enough food to guarantee the amount of nutrients needed by the body. According to the UN and WHO (World Health Organization), they emphasize that, each day, each person needs to consume at least 2500 calories. If people consume, on average, less than that, they are endemic or hidden hungry.

Hunger exists in many regions of the world, generally in less developed countries (some countries in Africa, Asia, and America), but this problem is not unique to poor countries or regions. This problem also manifests itself on the outskirts of large and small cities in developed or emerging countries, including Europe.

Causes and consequences of hunger

Regarding the causes of this problem, we can highlight the following:

  • Deficiency in the distribution of food, that is, this deficiency is particularly present in the construction of the social structure, which is currently extremely unequal, since the poorest population has very low financial resources, which limits the purchasing power of food for consumption. This phenomenon occurs, above all, in developing countries and in rural areas where infrastructure is precarious and connection with urban centres is difficult. Thus, the supply of food, both in quantity and variety, is directed to urban centres, where the population has better conditions of purchasing power. However, it is in these regions, where there is more waste of these products.
  • Food waste is another cause that aggravates this scenario. Food losses are not limited only to the economic sphere, but also to the resources that were necessary for production, such as water, energy, and labour, emitting a greater amount of greenhouse gases throughout the process. In this sense, there are two main patterns of waste, which are determined according to the countries’ economic situation. In developed countries, the process usually takes place in the hands of the final consumer, that is, when the food is ready. However, these foods are not fully consumed, generating the “leftovers” that are thrown away. In developing countries, on the other hand, waste occurs in the previous stages, that is, during production, where the harvest is often not used or processed due to poor storage conditions or the fact that farmers do not have sufficient means of transport for their production to distribution points for sale.
  • Poverty is one of the main causes of the problem of accessibility of food resources, which is also linked to armed conflicts, terrorism, corruption, climate change, and environmental degradation, among others, thus demonstrating food insecurity.

On the other hand, the phenomenon of hunger also has serious consequences, especially for individuals, as the ability to perform physical activities is affected by the lack of food or poor nutrition. And, consequently, in most cases, the workforce is the only resource these individuals have to offer, and the reduction of their work capacity can further aggravate their economic situation and perpetuate their condition of lack of food resources.

Another consequence of this phenomenon is the fact that the person’s physical and mental development is impaired, that is, malnutrition and lack of food slows child growth, leaving sequels in cognitive skills and decreasing school performance and presence. It also compromises the results of investments made in the education sector, since malnourished children enjoy their reduced learning potential, and some end up leaving school to help their families “put food on the table”.

Long-term damage to health, increasing the likelihood of disease, due to weakening from insufficient nutrition, and premature death are other consequences of this phenomenon, as children born to malnourished mothers start their lives with difficulty, due to the low weight and nutritional deficiencies caused during pregnancy.

In addition to these consequences, hunger causes political and social instability, further hampering the efforts of States to eradicate poverty.

In conclusion, these factors have impacts at individual, community, and governmental levels. Thus, hunger (and poverty) is a very difficult problem to be eradicated, requiring several different lines of action.

EU Policies

The contribution of EU agriculture to this objective is twofold: on the one hand, the common agricultural policy guarantees all Europeans safe, nutritious, and sustainably produced food. On the other hand, with its food exports, the EU has contributed to food security in the rest of the world, while giving developing regions extremely favourable trade conditions, thus promoting the growth of their national agro-industries.

Therefore, combating food insecurity and malnutrition can prevent the generational transmission of poverty. To ensure food security, it is necessary that small farmers, especially women, have access to adequate land, resources, investments and markets, nutritious food and health systems, and that multisectoral actions focus on patterns of behaviour and eating habits.

Accordingly, the EU proposes the following measures to promote sustainable practices in the fields of agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture:

  • Ensuring access to safe, sufficient, nutritious, and affordable food throughout the year to eradicate hunger.
  • End malnutrition, stunting and child emaciation.
  • Improve the productivity of agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture in a sustainable manner.
  • Reduce food loss and waste.

However, reports from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) demonstrate that even before the Covid Pandemic, the world was far from eradicating hunger by 2030. The global health crisis, whose impact is being felt in economies worldwide, it only worsened the panorama of hunger, as the pandemic put many people in a situation of poverty, with severe food shortages, since they were deprived of income or remuneration.

In short, eradicating hunger will thus involve transforming these more efficient, resilient, and sustainable food and agricultural systems, as well as combating waste. In addition to this, individuals, too, must take action at home, at work and in the community, supporting farmers and local markets and making food choices sustainable, in order to ensure good nutrition for all and to combat waste of food.

Written by: Maria Luisa Pereira


ONU. “Goal 2: Zero Hunger”. Available: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/hunger/

ONU. “Objetivo 2: Erradicar a fome”. Available: https://unric.org/pt/objetivo-2-erradicar-a-fome/

ONU (2020). “Como erradicar a fome ate 2030?”. Available : https://unric.org/pt/como-erradicar-a-fome-ate-2030/

European Commission. “EU agriculture and SDG”. Available : https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/farming/international-cooperation/international-organisations/un-sustainable-development-goals_en

European Commission. “Resilience to food crises”. Available : https://ec.europa.eu/international-partnerships/topics/resilience-food-crises_en

European Union. “Development and cooperation”. Available : https://europa.eu/european-union/topics/development-cooperation_en

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