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Hunger in Südasien - UNICEF stellt Studie vor / UNICEF: A Matter of Magnitude

The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Women and Children in South Asia / Über 400 Millionen Menschen in der Region betroffen

Im Folgenden dokumentieren wir größere Auszüge aus einer soeben erschienenen Studie des UN-Kinderhilfswerks UNICEF: "A Matter of Magnitude. The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Women and Children in South Asia", June 2009. Untersucht wurde die Lage der ärmsten Bevölkerung in Südasien, wozu folgende Länder gehören: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Indien, Malediven, Nepal, Pakistan und Sri Lanka. Das alarmierendste Ergebnis: Seit dem Jahr 2000, als der Millenniumsgipfel die Halbierung der Armut bis zum Jahr 2015 verkündete, stieg die extreme Armutsbevölkerung in Südasien von knapp 300 Mio. auf über 400 Mio. im Jahr 2007/08 an. Die Broschüre ist 12 Seiten stark und kann hier heruntergeladen werden: www.unicef.org (externer Link, 2,55 MB).
Eine Zusammenfassung ausgewählter Ergebnisse haben wir einem Artikel der Tageszeitung "junge Welt" entnommen.

Hunger in Südasien

UNICEF: Über 400 Millionen Menschen in der Region betroffen *

Die Folgen der Weltwirtschaftskrise haben die Zahl der Hungernden in Südasien nach UN-Angaben auf mehr als 400 Millionen steigen lassen. Die Zahl ist die höchste seit 40 Jahren, wie Daniel Toole vom UN-Kinderhilfswerk UNICEF am Dienstag erklärte. Angesichts dieser Krise müßten die Regierungen dringend mehr Geld für Lebensmittel, Gesundheitsversorgung und Bildung ausgeben. Andernfalls »werden die Armen in Südasien, fast 20 Prozent der Weltbevölkerung, weiter in Armut und Unterernährung abrutschen«, heißt es in einem UNICEF-Bericht.

Demnach litten in den Jahren 2007/2008 mindestens 405 Millionen Menschen in der Region Hunger. Zwischen 2004 und 2005 lag die Zahl den Angaben zufolge noch bei 300 Millionen. Im Mittelpunkt des Berichts stehen die Auswirkungen der Weltwirtschaftskrise auf Frauen und Kinder in acht südasiatischen Ländern -- Afghanistan, Bangladesch, Bhutan, Indien, die Malediven, Nepal, Pakistan und Sri Lanka.

Fast ein Drittel der 1,8 Milliarden Menschen in Südasien haben demnach weniger als das empfohlene tägliche Minimum an Nahrungsmitteln zur Verfügung. Drei Viertel leben in Haushalten, die pro Tag weniger als zwei Dollar verdienen. Mehr als die Hälfte des Einkommens werde für Lebensmittel ausgegeben, erklärte UNICEF weiter. Fast jedes zweite Kind in der Region sei unterernährt.

UNICEF-Regionaldirektor Toole forderte Indien und Pakistan auf, ihre Rüstungsausgaben zu reduzieren und statt dessen die Sozialausgaben zu erhöhen. Zwischen 1997 und 2006 habe Pakistan 18 Prozent und Indien 14 Prozent seines Staatshaushalts für Rüstung verwendet, heißt es in dem Bericht. In Bildung seien dagegen weniger als vier und in die Gesundheitsversorgung nur zwei Prozent investiert worden.

* Aus: junge Welt, 3. Juni 2009

A Matter of Magnitude

The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Women and Children in South Asia

The eight countries in South Asia [South Asia comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka] have been shaken by the shocks and turbulence in commodity and financial markets over the last two years. These changes have inflicted new and dramatic stress on vast swathes of the population in a region where more than 1.18 billion people, or three quarters of the population, in eight countries subsist on less than $2 a day (World Bank). Without urgent, inclusive government response, the poor of South Asia – nearly 20% of the world's population – will sink further into poverty and malnutrition, with long-term negative consequences for growth and development in the region and globally.

High levels of income inequality, rapid urbanization, persistent and pervasive social polarization, increasing food prices, a lack of government attention to agriculture and rural development, and the mounting eff ects of climate change - droughts, floods and cyclones - are just some of the reasons why more than 1 in 5 of South Asia’s population was exposed to hunger and malnutrition, even before the food, fuel and financial crises struck in 2008. The hardship has fallen most heavily upon women and children, people living in poverty, and the socially marginalized.

This ‘silent crisis’ of hunger and malnutrition, already a fact of life for millions of South Asians, has been forced into sharper focus by the food and fuel price shocks of 2008. In fact, the situation is worsening as the multiple impacts of the crises begin to take root. As a result, the IMF and World Bank have highlighted a “development emergency”, pointing to the serious and long-lasting consequences for the poor and the lives, welfare and prospects of the most vulnerable, especially the region’s children.

Understanding and tracking the effects of this complex interplay of global, evolving trends and their impact on poor and excluded communities in South Asia will be crucial to determine the policies and strategies required of governments and all partners. These policies must help cushion the blows and, at a minimum, ensure that the most basic needs of the most vulnerable are met in the present, while taking steps to protect their well-being and security into the future.

A Matter of Fact

p 2

In the space of two years, the number of people suff ering from chronic hunger in South Asia has increased by about 100 million. Hunger in South Asia was already at vastly unacceptable levels at 300 million before the start of the crises and is now estimated to be more than 400 million by the close of 2008. An increase of about 100 million represents the highest levels of hunger recorded in forty years. By comparison, globally, there are an estimated one billion people who are hungry, and 2.6 billion who are poor.

Table 1: The Growing Number of Hungry in South Asia (in millions)

Sri Lanka2.
South Asia265.0328.9298.5300.6405.6

Sources: Compiled from FAO database for 1970-2003 and country level rapid assessments and nutrition surveys for 2005/06-2007/2008. Hunger refers to those, consuming less than the minimum recommended energy intake. In South Asia this averages approximately 2100kCal/day per person, but differs slightly by country and between rurak and urban sectors.

Recent survey results from Bangladesh (FAO, February 2009), Nepal (WFP, February 2009) and Pakistan (Inter-Agency mission, July 2008) suggest that the crisis is festering:
  • In Nepal, the total number of people at risk to hunger rose by 50 percent (from 6 million to over 9 million people) in just 6 months last year;
  • In Pakistan, the estimated number of hungry people rose by 16 percent from 72 million to 84 million over a period of a year and a half ; and,
  • In Bangladesh the 2007/2008 estimated number of food insecure people was 65.3 million, an increase of 7.5 million, or 13 percent from the previous year.
Given the scale of the economic slowdown, coupled with price increases for many staple foods, there is no evidence to suggest that other countries in the region have fared any better.

Some effects of the global recession on economies in South Asia
  • India’s exports plunged by 15 percent in October 2008 and by 19% in Feb 2009, as a direct result of the global economic crisis (UNDP 2009). Labour-intensive sectors such as the garment industry, leather, gems and jewellery were the worst aff ected.
  • The Pakistan economy is extremely fragile and among the most vulnerable in the region due to high fiscal and current account deficits, runaway inflation, depleting foreign exchange reserves, a weak currency and considerable internal security issues. Pakistan has been forced to ask for financial assistance to cover short-term debt and stabilize its economy. In November 2008, the IMF approved a $7.6 billion loan package for Pakistan.
  • The island nations in the region face similar problems: Sri Lanka and Maldives, being food and fuel importers, found themselves exposed to sharp increases in their import bills. Tourism, an important source of revenue has suff ered in both countries.
  • Bangladesh was forced to import 300 percent more rice in 2007 (FAO/WFP data) due to cyclones and flooding at a time of rising food and fuel prices. At the same time, its export sector, especially garments, could be aff ected due to weak global demand in 2009.
  • Nepal, emerging from a decade of confl ict and low growth, imports a large share of its goods and services through India, including fuel and food. However, in Nepal, as in Bangladesh, strong flows of remittances from abroad propped falling current account balances in their respective countries during 2008; this eff ect appears to be waning in mid-2009. Tourism may decline as a result of contracting incomes in tourist origin countries.
  • Bhutan, being an exporter of hydroelectricity with the completion of the Tala Hydroelectric project, continued to enjoy a current account surplus. Its growth cycle is very closely linked to power project completion cycles and appears more shielded from the international crisis, although the tourism sector could be under threat as global tourism demand drops.

A Matter of Urgency

p 6-7

The economic crisis is likely to have an even greater impact, if urgent action is not taken. Every country in South Asia has been aff ected by the economic crises through slowdown in global demand, surging domestic inflation, especially of food items, contraction of fiscal space, structural changes in the labor markets and volatile capital flows. The IMF has accordingly revised GDP growth estimates downwards for all countries in South Asia to an average of 3.9 percent in 2009 and less than 5 percent for 2010. As a comparison, between 2005-2007 GDP growth rates nearly reached 10 percent for the region.

Although South Asian economies are still expected to grow faster than other advanced economies that are already experiencing recession, the fallout will be signifi cant, with low-income food and energy defi cit countries of the region most at risk. When even the high growth rates of the mid-2000s did not generate adequate employment, the projected reduced GDP growth rates and deflation due to the crises cannot maintain existing formal sector employment, let alone absorb the large numbers of youth who come into the labor market each year.

Pressure on the informal sector will intensify – where an estimated 90 percent of the South Asian labor force ekes out a living. This pressure will hollow-out wages pushing larger numbers of the working poor further below the poverty line. With slower GDP growth ahead, governments in the region may resort to reducing the real value of transfers to households at a time when new measures are urgently needed to assure income particularly to those in insecure employment.

South Asia’s labour markets are currently contracting as overseas trade slows, affecting large sections of the workforce, both in the formal and informal or unorganized sector. For example: in India, the diamond industry has laid off some 200,000 diamond polishers in Surat since October 2008 due to falling demand for luxury items from overseas.

This sector employs almost 1 million workers, many of whom are migrants. India’s labour intensive cotton textiles and leather sectors are also vulnerable and job losses in the IT and automobile sectors are mounting. In January 2009, a survey conducted by the Indian Central Employment Ministry estimated that the total job losses since October 2008 came to over half a million. The garment industry in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal are also under threat from falling demand in the markets of the North and increased competition.

Remittances from migrant work overseas, a traditional source of income for many South Asian households, are under threat from global contraction. The World Bank estimates that globally remittances are expected to drop to $290 billion in 2009, from last year’s high of $305 billion. Foreign remittances continue to outstrip capital fl ows and offi cial development aid in many countries and have remained relatively “resilient” for the time being; but increasingly, low skilled migrant workers from South Asia are being laid off and sent home.

A Matter of Survival

p 7-8

An overwhelming majority of South Asian families have been aff ected by high inflation and in particular, rising food costs. Those hit the hardest are on the margin and just below the poverty line – that is, the urban poor, rural landless, women and children, and other socially excluded ethnic and minority groups. Typically, these groups spend more than 60-70 percent of their income on food, have larger families, lack suffi cient assets to cushion them from rising prices and have limited or no access to insurance and credit facilities.

Evidence from past crises shows that when faced with unemployment and lower wages, poor families eat cheaper and less nutritious food, leading to weight loss and malnutrition, especially for young children and pregnant women. Fees for school, including the costs of textbooks, uniforms and transportation, become unaff ordable for poorer families, forcing them to pull their children from class to join the workforce or support the household - seldom returning to school afterwards and eff ectively ending their chance of a formal education.

A picture is now beginning to emerge of how the most vulnerable would try and survive this crisis. Many families have no real option except resorting to ineff ective short-term solutions with irreversible consequences, especially for children4. In the absence of suffi cient, fl exible assets or of social protection and safety nets, poor families have been forced to resort to a range of drastic survival measures (FAO, Food Insecurity in Bangladesh, February 2009; UN Inter Agency Mission, Pakistan, July 2008, WFP Nepal, February 2009):
  • Decreasing incomes aff ect the quality and quantity of food consumed especially for women who eat last in many South Asian households. According to FAO (2006), more than 60 percent of chronically hungry people globally are women.
  • Household spending on health and education may be squeezed out with long-term consequences. For example, children are moved from fee-paying private schools to lower quality public schools, sent to work, and in some cases pulled out of school altogether. In many South Asian countries, girls are removed from school before their brothers. (UN Inter Agency Mission Report: High Food Prices in Pakistan. July 2008).
  • Reduced wages and job losses due to economic slow-down often force families to send women and children to work outside the home to bring in extra income. While becoming a formal breadwinner can enhance the status of women within the household, it also means they may have less time for childcare and ensuring children are eating properly. In addition, when domestic responsibilities devolve to girl children, it is often at the cost of their education. Children sent to work lose out on education and risk exposure to injury and other health risks on the job.
  • Domestic and international migration of family members in search of better job prospects can off er an escape route from poverty. However, migration may also place workers in low productivity jobs, with poor access to basic services, as well as in jobs with increased exposure to unforgiving and dangerous work conditions. In cases where key family members are absent, the disruption to traditional family arrangements can have adverse consequences for children who may be left unattended or in the care of surrogate parents.
  • Already stretched to the limit, families tend to borrow money at high interest rates and selloff hard earned assets. As a consequence, they are left without resources and assets to buff er against further shocks and rising food prices.
  • Resources usually allocated to women and children for food and education may change as families struggle to cope with new and unforeseen hardships. Education and playtime may diminish as children are drawn into paid or unpaid work. More worrisome, the incidence of early marriage, traffi cking, neglect and abuse may increase when families struggle to cope with less food, poorer health and cramped living conditions.
As a result of these short-term, often necessary coping strategies, families fi nd themselves worse off than before, with decreasing means to stop or reverse their descent into absolute poverty and to cope with future shocks and price fluctuations. Besides the negative impact on child health and education, such emergency coping strategies have serious macro implications for economic growth. This is particularly striking at a time when most South Asian countries have increasing numbers of their population moving towards the working age.

A Matter of Economic Sense

p 8-9

The global economic meltdown is now a full-fledged development challenge for South Asia. In response, governments in the region have taken bold and sometimes unconventional steps to stimulate growth and shield their citizens from the calamitous eff ects of the combined crises. Thus, although the forecasts appear dire, there is cause for hope that governments will seize this opportunity to address both fiscal and social crises simultaneously.

With the vision to employ progressive approaches, leaders across South Asia should use the present crisis as an opportunity to provide additional, more inclusive and higher quality social services. Such support can help to address chronic hunger and malnutrition, achieve better and more equitable health and education outcomes, forestall rising poverty and inequality, and at the same time make their economies more productive and competitive for the future. It thus also makes economic sense to invest in the right to basic social services – they pay for themselves over time. Moreover, it makes political sense: economic stability ultimately depends on addressing poverty, inequity and discrimination, which are strongly linked to political instability.

To leaders and policy makers struggling with a threat of diminishing fi scal resources, mobilizing resources for social investment may appear counter-intuitive. However, taking a long-term, visionary approach is both possible and makes good economic, social and political sense. While the eff ects of crises may pass with time, decisions taken today will aff ect the future of South Asia - whose population is expected to increase by another 440 million within the next twenty years, crossing the 2 billion mark.

What Matters Now

p 11-12

There is a wide range of economic policy interventions and tools available to respond to the current situation. There is also growing consensus that government must act quickly. Government fi scal stimulus packages as well as donor assistance are key opportunities to strengthen and improve health and education services and enhance of social protection programmes for the long-term - expanding them to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized. The dramatic impact of the fuel, food price and fi nancial crises presents an important opportunity for countries in the region to restructure and scaleup social systems.

The following are four key recommendations for government action in South Asia. Each recommendation will need to be tailored to the specifi c conditions at country level. However, taken together, they represent a minimum set of actions that should be implemented urgently.

1. Urgently address the enormous problem of malnutrition in South Asia.
  • Begin or expand malnutrition prevention interventions before and during pregnancy;
  • Accelerate nutrition interventions to children under two years of age e.g. large-scale promotion of early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months followed by adequate complementary feeding;
  • Ensure regular nutritional monitoring of children under fi ve and pregnant women in real time using sentinel and spot surveys, and during routine preventive health services or outreach campaigns;
  • Rapidly scale-up supplementary and therapeutic feeding at community level to address severe acute malnutrition.
2. Rapidly expand inclusive access to basic social services
  • Increase access to clean drinking water and improved sanitation;
  • Promote hand-washing with soap nation-wide as one of the most effective public health actions;
  • Improve community empowerment to scale-up community-based prevention and care interventions;
  • Ensure inclusive, child-friendly, high-quality health and education, making sure primary health and education services are genuinely free, and involve communities
3. Enhance publicly-financed employment and training schemes, particularly for youth.
  • Include child-relevant infrastructure improvements and staffi ng of schools, clinics, early childhood centers, in fiscal stimulus packages – thus creating jobs and improving social services together;
  • Expand protective services to address exploitation, violence and abuse;
  • Introduce or expand employment and training schemes, especially for youth, in manufacturing, the services industry, private entrepreneurship and government to address youth unemployment and disaffection.
4. Enhance and systematize social protection for all
  • Boost food and cash social transfers already in place to address food price hikes;
  • Consider the gradual introduction of a social protection floor, starting with a universal child benefit.
    These recommendations can be implemented in the short- to medium-term. This would serve as a as rapid and forward looking response to the crises and should be integrated into fiscal stimulus packages.
    While the costs of such efforts may seem considerable now, their long-term return in unquestionable:
    over time children and women who are better educated and in better health contribute substantially more to national growth and development. South Asia and the world need that growth.
The cost of doing nothing is enormous – economically and morally. The time to act is now.

Quelle: www.unicef.org (externer Link)

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