The term hunger describes a physical sensation, the feeling that the body is running low on energy and needs something to eat.
Undernutrition is a quantitive term that refers to not getting enough to eat.
Malnutrition meanwhile is qualitative and describes when a person’s diet is lacking the necessary amounts of elements essential to growth, such as vitamins, salts and proteins. A malnourished person therefore does not necessarily feel hungry. In fact, although most commonly discussed as the result of undernutrition, malnutrition can also stem from overnutrition. An example is the excessive intake of poor-quality food that is calorie-rich but nutrient-poor.
Starvation is a word that is often used to describe people caught in a famine, or a geographically widespread scarcity of food. Starvation is, like hunger, a physical condition and is the most severe form of undernutrition. Prolonged starvation can cause permanent damage to the body and in the worst instances result in death. However, it is important to remember that the highest number of hunger deaths come not from starvation but from nutrition-related sicknesses and diseases.
Food insecurity describes a condition where people do not have physical or economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a healthy life. The term can be applied to a household, community or country.
Hunger – in all its forms – is the number one risk to human health worldwide. Every year, the death toll exceeds that of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. This is a problem that the whole world needs to address, and for Hong Kong people, the place to start is right here, in our own districts and neighbourhoods. Click here to find out more about who is hungry and hunger in Hong Kong.
What are the causes of hunger?
Poverty is most often the principal cause of hunger. But it is by no means the only one. Natural disasters, conflict, poor agricultural infrastructure, and a lack of access to the marketplace are other contributing factors. The recent economic crises and volatile food prices also place people at an increased risk of hunger.
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