Poverty and unjust distribution of resources are the basic causes of hunger. Half of the people in our world live on $2 per day or less. Though most have permanent access to land, they lack the resources to make the land a productive part of sustaining their families.
Ineffective, corrupt, and/or unstable governments are one driver of poverty. For example, in 2007, Madagascar was on track to achieve Millenium Development Goals in the areas of child mortality and extreme poverty, but a 6-year period of unstable governance shackled the economy and those goals are no longer achievable (World Bank, 2015). Large populations may be forcibly driven from their homes, land, and work to make room for enterprises that benefit those in power.
Epidemics and natural disasters also drive vulnerable families into dire circumstances and erase people’s past progress toward self-reliance. In Syria, a horrible period of four years of war has driven more than 10 million people from their homes; in Uganda, the HIV epidemic has been partially responsible for a population that is 5% orphans; in Central America, extreme drought and a coffee plant fungus have eliminated a key source of income for millions, causing widespread famine.
When women or other groups have unequal access to resources, this perpetuates food shortage and poor health. One study (UN World Food Program) showed that women's education contributed 43% of the reduction in child malnutrition over time, while food availability accounted for 26%.