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Chinese kids free from hunger now
Updated: 2009-11-05 15:56

BEIJING: "Hunger?" Wang Yaya, 15, considers its meaning: "I'm craving for lunch at 11 a.m. on weekdays, and my stomach is growling in the long queues at KFC."

A middle school student in Xinzhou, a small city in China's northern Shanxi Province, Wang is slightly puzzled by the word "hunger."

Recently, her mother, Yu Bo, and maternal grandmother, Wang Yanan, have been at odds over Yaya's growing good appetite. Grandmother's golden law is "More food makes a stronger physique," but the mother disagrees.

"Eat moderately. You're a big girl," Yu protests whenever her own mother persuades Yaya to eat another bowl of rice. Yaya is 1.72 meters tall and weighs 60 kilograms, making her bigger than her peers.

Yaya is one of the new generation of Chinese to whom "hunger" equates to dieting and to whom the the country's many famines are only known through history lessons.

However, the specter of starvation still haunts much of the world. A total of 1.02 billion people, about a sixth of the global population, were undernourished in 2009, according to estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The number was 105 million higher than in 2008 because of economic crisis and rising grain prices.

Children are the worst affected. The World Health Organization cites hunger as the gravest single threat to the world's public health, and malnutrition, which is prevalent in developing countries, is by far the biggest cause to child mortality.

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Ann Veneman, executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said in a statement on October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, "Children who are chronically undernourished before their second birthday are likely to have diminished cognitive and physical development for the rest of their lives."

A survey by India's MS Swaminathan Research Foundation and the UN World Food Program showed 21 percent of India's population, more than 230 million people, were undernourished, accounting for 27 percent of the world's hungry people. Almost 50 percent of India's child deaths were linked to malnutrition.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC), which was adopted on November 20, 1989, sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of children, and underscores their right to life that is very often compromised by scarcity of food.

Despite the challenges, China has dragged the vast majority of its 1.3 billion people out of hunger within only one generation.

ActionAid, a global anti-poverty agency, released a report on October 16 saying China and Brazil topped the scorecard in the fight against hunger.

Visiting Beijing in October to celebrate 30 years of cooperation between the UN World Food Program (WFP) and the Chinese government, Sheila Sisulu, deputy WFP executive director, said, "One reason I am here is to see first-hand by myself to find and inquire how it happened."

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