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More obese than starving

More people now die from eating too much than too little, it emerged today as a charity highlights one of the ugliest divides in modern life.

The global gap between rich and poor couldn’t be more obvious with 15 per cent of people going hungry while a record 20 per cent suffer from "excess nutrition".

It comes from the Red Cross’s latest worldwide disaster report, which found 1.5 billion dangerously overweight last year, while 925 million were underfed.

The figures are a ‘shocking’ demonstration that the world produces enough food but people still go hungry, said the Red Cross, calling the finding a ‘double-edged’ scandal.

"If we have almost one billion people going hungry and 1.5 billion people overweight, something must be wrong with the food system and something must be done about it," said the Red Cross’s Jagan Chapagain yesterday. "This is a double-edged scandal and both situations are not good."

The figures in the report are obscene; three million children starve to death before their fifth birthday while every year, 2.4 million people die from obesity-related disease.

Sixty per cent of the world's underfed are women, and in some countries the amount of women and girls going hungry is double that of men.

Nearly half of men and nearly as many women will be obese in Britain by 2030, recent figures predict.

"The important thing to note is that this is really not an issue about a lack of food," Mr Chapagain said. "Right now the world produces enough food for everybody."

Instead, what is driving the problem, the Red Cross said, is that bad distribution, wastage and rising prices are making food unaffordable. Global food prices are now higher than the catastrophic spikes in 2008 that triggered famines across Africa and plunged millions more into extreme poverty, the report said.

"Clearly since food and land have become tradeable commodities in many countries, price speculation and hedging has contributed to the price volatility and in many cases an increase in prices," Dr Chapagain said.

"There has to be a level of regulation to prevent massive speculation in food prices which is affecting the world's most vulnerable, " Dr Chapagain added, calling for international action.

“A rise in the numbers both of obese people and people in hunger on the face of it seems counter-intuitive,” said Christain Aid’s Alex Cobham. “But in fact these two trends can be traced back to the same phenomenon – the common factor is inequality.”

Hayley attribution