12 Causes of World Hunger Explained in Major Detail

World Hunger , Food Insecurity and Malnutrition are all prominent problems in the world today. This article discusses the causes of world hunger as follows;


1). Poverty as one of the Causes of World Hunger

We can choose to view poverty as the most prominent cause of world hunger.

The term ‘Poverty’ basically refers to a state of inadequacy of resources. Across the global human population, more than 800 million people are currently living in poverty, with access to less than $1.25 a day [5].

Poverty makes it impossible for people to be able to afford the basic necessities of life, which include food. This exposes the poor to high risk of food insecurity, and hunger.

Asides directly causing world hunger, poverty can lead to a lack of agricultural resources that can be used to produce food. Such resources include land, water, fertilizer, farming equipment, and capital. This means that potential small-scale farmers are prevented from being productive and self-sufficient, by poverty. For large-scale farmers, inadequate resources can reduce the access to efficient and effective tools that could help to boost food production.

Poverty and hunger both function in an interchangeable pattern. This means that, just as poverty may lead to hunger; hunger itself can lead to more poverty.

People who are subjected to hunger are usually not very economically productive and this results in low income [4]. Hunger can also lead to several illnesses by reducing the immunity of the body to these health problems. Such illnesses cause huge financial expenditure on healthcare, and could worsen the state of poverty.

Extreme poverty is common in countries of the world where there is little to no social security. It is also common in places where other problems occur, like climate change, conflict, and natural disaster. In such countries, hunger and malnutrition are also very widespread.


2). Conflict as one of the Causes of World Hunger

Hunger is a very common condition in parts of the world where conflict occurs.

There are various forms of conflict, which can be described using various terms; such as Unrest, War, Communal Clashes, Insurgence, and Social Instability. These terms all refer to a state of chaos in which there is no positive growth or progress.

Conflict may lead to world hunger in sever ways. One of these is through the destruction of important resources that include agricultural infrastructure, farm lands, food storage and processing facilities, among others.

Another way by which conflict leads to world hunger is through forced migration, in which people are made to flee their homes and become refugees.

During conflict, hunger is often used as a weapon to subdue a particular group of people. In such cases, even relief supplies and vital services are made to be inaccessible to the vulnerable [2] by sealing borders and closing off routes through which these food supplies could be accessed. This implies that, to achieve zero world hunger, efforts must be made to reduce the prevalence of conflict in our society.

3). Climate Change as one of the Causes of World Hunger

World hunger is also notably caused by Climate Change.

This can be observed in countries with less conflict, where crop production is still grossly affected by unfavorable climate.

Climate change harms crops by producing harsh environmental conditions like extreme heat, drought or excessive rainfall [6]. These conditions negatively impact both the soil and the crops themselves, reducing agricultural-yield and leading to food shortage.

The effect of climate change on world hunger is obvious in some African and Asian countries which are experiencing drought and other harsh environmental conditions.

world hunger and food distribution in kenya
Distribution of Vegetable Oil Rations to Kenyan Villagers during Hunger Crisis Caused by drought (Credit: Kelleher 2011 .CC BY 2.0.)

4). Economic Recession

Economic recession often results in hunger for the population.

An easy way to understand this is by considering the fact that economic recession usually leads to a condition of poverty for many individuals [3].

When global economic growth is slowed down, food insecurity is among the many problems that result. The rise in costs of food commodities makes these commodities difficult to access, and increases the prevalence of hunger.

This means that achieving economic resilience and growth will help to reduce the prevalence of world hunger.


5). Food Wastage as one of the Causes of World Hunger

Studies have shown that up to one-third (1/3) of all food which is produced on Earth, is wasted.

This is a huge challenge, considering that these large portion of wasted food is more than enough to meet the needs of the hungry population in parts of the world. Food wastage also means that the natural resources (land, water, soil, energy for mechanized processes, human resources) used in the production of such food, has been wasted.

The effect of food wastage on the environment is negative, as it causes atmospheric, water and land pollution, and the release of billions of tons of greenhouse gases, that cause Global Warming. This in turn leads to Climate Change, which further worsens the state of food insecurity and world hunger.


6). Poor Governance as one of the Causes of World Hunger

World hunger can also be attributed to poor governance.

This is true especially in countries where there are systemic problems like low agricultural investment and negligence of infrastructural development [1]. Poor governance leads to unfavorable policies that do not protect the poor and vulnerable within the population.

In a similar manner, poor governance leads to poor planning and strategizing to address issues like unemployment, poverty, corruption and inflation. These issues are known to cause hunger for many.


7). Inequality as one of the Causes of World Hunger

By inequality, we refer to a state of unequal distribution. This may involve the distribution of resources, access to food, or rights and privileges.

Inequality takes different forms and can be described as Gender Inequality, Social and Economic Inequality, among others.

When there is unequal distribution of resources, it usually implies that a group of people will be deprived.

In the world today, it is estimated that most of the wealth is owned by a small percentage of the population. In periods of economic recession and inflation, the general public may be unable to afford quality or adequate food.

Also, gender inequality means that women in many parts of the world do not have much access to land and other resources which are needed for agriculture.

As a result, the capacity of women farmers to produce food is reduced drastically. Making more avenues available for women in agriculture will lead to an increase in global food supply, and a decrease in world hunger.


8). Lack of Resources as one of the Causes of World Hunger

Food production cannot be carried out effectively in the absence of the required resources. Such resources include capital, land, safe water, human resources, tools and infrastructure for planting, harvest and processing.

In regions where the essential resources for agriculture are lacking, hunger is usually a problem. This can be seen in countries prone to drought, extreme weather conditions, and economic recession.


9). Natural Disaster

Natural Disaster, or Natural Hazard; is used to describe any destructive or harmful event that occurs in our natural environment.

These events include flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, and landslides; among others.

Natural hazards are usually caused by other factors, such as climate change, human activity, and environmental conditions.

When these hazardous events occur, they destroy infrastructure, and lead to the loss of resources that include lives and property.

Natural hazards cause humanitarian crises, which goes along with forces migration, economic setbacks, poverty and hunger. Therefore, people who live in areas affected by natural hazards are at great risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.


10). Migration as A Cause of World Hunger

The causes of migration range from conflict and economic challenges to natural hazards, environmental degradation and disease outbreak.

Migration goes along with other social problems like unemployment, homelessness and food insecurity. People who are forced to migrate in search of safer or better conditions often become refugees in places where they have no economic or social security.

These exposes them to hunger. The presence of refugees or internally displaced persons in any part of the world usually places a strain on the available resources, especially when these individuals are not able to work due to legal restrictions.

This makes it difficult to provide welfare measures to cater adequately for the existing needs.


11). Illiteracy and Unemployment as Causes of World Hunger

In the world today, education is often an important requirement for gainful employment.

People with inadequate or no educational qualifications are therefore unable to access most of the well-paying employment positions in the society.

This places such people at a high risk of poverty and lack. which often translates to food insecurity and hunger.


12). Biased Trade Policy as A Cause of World Hunger

When the policies guiding global trade are unfavorable or biased, it leads to an imbalance between investments and profits, for some countries.

Such conditions have negative impacts on the economy, and may lead to recession and price inflation. This in turn can make food inaccessible especially to low-income earners, thereby resulting in hunger.



Causes of  world hunger are;

1). Poverty

2). Conflict

3). Climate Change

4). Economic Recession

5). Food Wastage

6). Poor Governance

7). Inequality

8). Lack of Resources

9). Natural Disaster

10). Migration  

11). Illiteracy and Unemployment

12). Biased Trade Policies

It implies that, to address the problem of world hunger, each of these causes among others, must be addressed.



1). Khan, M. H. (2001). “Rural Poverty in Developing Countries: Implications for Public Policy.” Available at: https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/issues/issues26/. (Accessed 29 December 2021).

2). MacSorley, D. (2021). “Hunger and conflict.” Available at: https://www.concern.net/nothing-kills-like-hunger/hunger-and-conflict.(Accessed 29 December 2021).

3). Marchisio, M. (2021). “What impact will the COVID-19 pandemic and the global economic downturn have on world food security?” Available at: https://www.ifad.org/en/web/latest/-/what-impact-will-the-covid-19-pandemic-and-the-global-economic-downturn-have-on-world-food-security- (Accessed 29 December 2021).

4). Martínez, R., and Fernández, A. (2008). “The cost of hunger: Social and economic impact of child undernutrition in Central America and the Dominican Republic.” Available at: https://repositorio.cepal.org/bitstream/handle/11362/39315/1/LCW144_en.pdf. (Accessed 29 December 2021).

5). UNDP (2021). “Goal 1: No poverty.” Available at: https://www1.undp.org/content/seoul_policy_center/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-1-no-poverty.html. (Accessed 29 December 2021).

6). Vogel, E.; Donat, G. M.; Alexandra, L. V.; Meinshausen, M.; Ray, D. K.; Karoly, D.; Frieler, K.; and Meinshausen, N. (2019). The effects of climate extremes on global agricultural yield. Environ. Res. Lett. 14. Available at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab154b. (Accessed 29 December 2021).

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