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The Solutions to World Hunger Can Solve Overpopulation Too

November 25, 1990

I am writing in response to Margaret Cunningham's letter "Ending World Hunger" (Nov. 6). Environmental experts concur that overpopulation remains the greatest threat to a sustainable ecosystem.

But Ms. Cunningham confuses the issue of world hunger in a very common way. Ending world hunger is not simply a matter of feeding people. The solutions to world hunger are the same solutions that reduce birth rates and population growth rates.

To date, every country that has ended hunger as a society-wide issue, defined as reducing the Infant Mortality Rate to 50 or below, has subsequently had a lower birth rate followed by a lower population growth rate.

To put it simply: When families see their children surviving, they naturally stop having so many.

We know that ending hunger involves a lot of interventions, which reinforce each other. James Grant, executive director of UNICEF, describes how interventions create a synergistic development process:

"Female literacy catalyzes family planning programs; less frequent pregnancies improve maternal and child health; improved health makes the most of preschool or primary education; education can increase incomes and agricultural productivity; better incomes or better food reduce infant mortality; fewer child deaths tend to lead to fewer births; smaller families improve maternal health; healthier mothers have healthier babies; healthier babies demand more attention; stimulation helps mental growth; more alert children do better at school. And so it continues in an endless pattern of either mutually reinforcing or mutually retarding relationships which can minimize or multiply the benefits of any given input."

A commitment to the well-being of children not only improves their survival, protection and development, but improves the quality of life for all.

ALISON ARMSTRONG, Director, Rainbows to End Hunger, Costa Mesa

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