Hunger in Peru: The Problems, the Progress, and Your Role

October 20, 2016

The Problem

Peru is a country that has battled with issues of chronic hunger and malnutrition for many years. High rates of poverty, gender inequality, and lack of access to education have contributed to hunger-related issues throughout the country. Issues of poverty and hunger are more prevalent among the rural, indigenous populations of Peru. About 45% of Peru’s total population is indigenous and 52% of those who live below the extreme poverty line are indigenous.1 This disparity reflects cultural attitudes that have isolated and marginalized indigenous populations, causing their poverty. Chronic hunger and malnutrition among these populations is produced by social inequalities, exemplified by unequal resource distribution, lack of access to fresh water, and lack of formal education. Although Peru has struggled with these problems in the past, there has been progress recently in addressing these issues, which serves as a hopeful sign for those in need.

Treating the Causes of Hunger

Peru has received aid from many organizations committed to ending world hunger. Both domestic and foreign governmental and nongovernmental agencies have been active in this country. The Hunger Project (THP), one of these global non-profit organizations, pairs with in-country leaders to address the various causes of hunger. By creating local partnerships and providing education, those who suffer from poverty are encouraged to help themselves out of hunger. In Peru, THP works with Chirapaq, or the Center for Indigenous People’s Cultures of Peru to empower indigenous communities to find solutions to end their hunger. Tarcila Rivera Zea, the executive director of Chirapaq, originally founded the organization in 1985 to aid Quechua children who had been orphaned by the violence of the Shining Path terrorists.1 Under her leadership, Chirapaq has become a prominent organization for indigenous and women’s rights.

This past year, Lima was the site of the World Conference of Indigenous Women. Indigenous women from across the globe attended this event in an effort to make their voices heard. With the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples to be held September of this year, some fear that the female voices will not be heard on the international stage. This event lead to the Lima Declaration, a statement demanding that the rights of women and indigenous peoples be kept in mind as international development goals are set in the future.1

In Peru, progress has been made toward a sustainable end to hunger through a variety of diverse programs. Chirapaq is part of a larger network of 30 organizations known as the Permanent Workshop of Andean and Amazonian Indigenous Women, which was co-founded by Tarcila Rivera Zea.1 Through workshops, leaders gain knowledge about their human and indigenous rights, so that they may achieve a strong political presence. Local leaders also learn to educate their communities about health, nutrition, and food security in order to battle hunger and malnutrition.

Peru’s Recent Progress

Since the turn of the millennium, Peru has made great progress addressing issues of extreme poverty and hunger. In 2000, the United Nations set forth the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) in order to help the world’s poorest populations improve their living conditions. Several of these eight goals include: eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, achieve universal primary education, and promote gender equality and empower women, with the goal achievement deadline set as the year 2015.2

Peru made substantial progress toward many of these goals, even achieving some before 2015. Monica Rubio, head of Peru's Development and Social Inclusion Ministry, has stressed that decreasing rates of malnutrition and infant mortality are due to a mindset shift across Peru. The government has focused on children’s health and development in recent social policy.3 Peru sees investment in children’s health as an investment in the country’s future.

Peru halved extreme poverty ahead of the MDGs’ 2015 deadline. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s 2013 report, in 1991, Peru’s poverty rate was 54.4% and the extreme poverty rate was 23%, but by 2012 the rates fell to 25.8% and 6%, respectively.4 Although these statistics reflect positive change, the report states that these results are uneven and some areas of the country still are plagued by extreme poverty in over half of their local population. Rates of childhood malnutrition have also dropped from 37.3% in 1991 to 19.5% as of 2011. If progress in this area continues, Peru will also achieve the goal of reducing chronic malnutrition to 18.7% by 2015.4 Once again, although these rates have been reduced nationally, rural areas continue to produce the highest percentages of malnourished and underweight children.

Since the establishment of the Millenium Development Goals, Peru has made an effort to address issues of hunger and poverty. Despite the fact that many of these goals have been achieved, progress has been relative to certain regions and many rural indigenous communities still suffer from chronic hunger and its interconnected causes. Issues such as gender inequality and lack of access to primary education reveal that there is still ample room for improvement. Peru must continue to focus upon these issues to truly eradicate hunger  and poverty throughout the nation.

How Can You Help End World Hunger?

As the 2015 deadline for the MDGs quickly approaches, discussion for drafting a new set of goals has begun. The next list, which will be known as the Post-2015 Agenda, will be aimed at both developing and developed countries. The United Nations looks toward civil society to create these goals and has developed an interactive voting process so that you can suggest your ideas for the new goals. Visit My World 2015 to vote on the issues that you think are most important.

The Post-2015 Agenda will seek to build upon the progress that has already been made, and seeks to completely eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the year 2030. Along with the United Nations, many non-profit organizations are working to achieve the end of chronic world hunger by this date.

Here on the University of Pittsburgh’s campus, I volunteer as part of an organization called FeelGood. We are one of the organizations that believes in this goal and works to end hunger not only through donations but also through education. FeelGood hosts a weekly deli in which we prepare gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches in exchange for donations. Not only do we donate 100% of our proceeds to The Hunger Project, but we also use our deli as a place to educate fellow students about the causes of and solutions to the issue of chronic hunger. Pitt’s FeelGood Deli is open from 11am-3pm every Thursday in Nordy’s Place in the William Pitt Union.

If you would like to find out more about this movement, or see if there is an active chapter at your school, visit As a national movement, our chapters donate to both The Hunger Project and Choice Humanitarian, international organizations that find local, sustainable solutions to end hunger. Both of these organizations are largely active across Latin America in countries such as Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, and Bolivia. By targeting the complex inter-related causes of hunger and issues that align with the MDGs, we hope to end world hunger in our lifetime.


Works Cited:

1) “Peru.” The Hunger Project. The Hunger Project. n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

2) “Millenium Development Goals and Beyond 2015.” United Nations. UN Web Services Section. n.d. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

3) “Peru leads worldwide efforts in reducing child malnutrition.” Andina. Peru News Agency. 06 Nov. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

4) Programas de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo. Sistema de Naciones Unida en Perú. Perú: Tercer informe nacional de cumplimiento de los objetivos de desarrollo del milenio. 2013. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.


About Author(s)

Madeline Townsend
Madeline is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She is pursuing a degree in Spanish and Global Studies, with a focus on the Latin American region. She plans to present an honors thesis on visual representations of the internal conflict that occurred in Peru between 1980 and 2000. She also studies Portuguese and Film Studies as minors and works as one of the Panoramas interns.