The annual world hunger report shows malnutrition increasing worldwide for the first time in nearly a decade. Chronic hunger affects an estimated 852 million people.
The U.N. food and agriculture agency says malnutrition kills five million children a year.
Releasing this year's world hunger report, agency representative Florence Chenoweth said progress in reducing hunger has been far too slow. "If you do the math, and I invite you to do this, that means that hunger kills one child every five seconds," she said.
Ms. Chenoweth says the economic impact of malnutrition is staggering. "Being underweight is the single most significant risk factor for loss of years of productive life because of premature death and disability," she said. "The direct cause of treating illness and disability caused by hunger in the developing world, adds up to roughly $30 billion a year. That is more than five times the amount committed so far to the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria."
The food and agriculture agency says 80 percent or more of the world's malnourished people live in rural areas of developing countries. Most are subsistence farmers. The FAO report follows two others in recent days suggesting the plight of the world's poor is worsening. The International Labor Organization has issued a report saying that half the world's workers earn less than two dollars a day.