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Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

  • Joe DeCapua

FAO, IFAD and WFP release new State of Food Security in the World report. 805-million people are chronically hungry. (Credit: FAO/Walter Astrada)

FAO, IFAD and WFP release new State of Food Security in the World report. 805-million people are chronically hungry. (Credit: FAO/Walter Astrada)

Global hunger continues to decline. About 805-million people are reported to be chronically undernourished. That’s down 209-million since the early 1990s.

Three U.N. agencies have released the new hunger report known as SOFI or State of Food Security in the World. It provides the latest information on the number and proportion of chronically undernourished people.

Jose Graziano da Silva, Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General, said, “Chronic undernourishment is a technical euphemism for being chronically hungry. This basically refers to inadequate dietary energy -- in layman’s terms – carbohydrates. The absence of sufficient dietary energy basically deprives people of the ability to work and function and to have decent healthy lives.”

Of the 805-million listed as chronically undernourished, 791-million are in developing countries.

U.N. officials said the declining numbers still fall short of the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. It called for reducing by half the proportion of undernourished people in developing countries by 2015.

The SOFI report said the “prevalence of undernourishment has fallen from 23.4 to 15.5-percent for developing countries.”

Da Silva said, “We basically have 15 more months to achieve the target. But the actual measurement of this will be completed in about two year’s time. The only way we can achieve this target is essentially by stepping up efforts in order to have sufficient acceleration of progress in order to achieve the MDG target.”

The FAO chief said progress in reducing hunger has been “very, very uneven in the developing world.”

“Progress has been greatest in Latin America, as well as in Southeast Asia. And unfortunately there has been a regression in West Asia. There has been progress in different parts of the world, but not sufficient to merit achievement of the MDG target,” he said.

Da Silva said there’s been a change in the distribution of hungry people.

“If you look at the situation today you will find that sub-Saharan Africa accounts for about a quarter of the hungry people in the world. And southern Asia accounts for an even higher proportion. The number of people in South Asia, who are hungry, is in excess of half a billion people.”

There are four dimensions to food security: availability, adequate supply, people’s ability to access sufficient food and stability in food prices, weather patterns and harvests.

The U.N. report said that “sustained political commitment at the highest level – with food security and nutrition as top priorities – is a prerequisite for hunger eradication.” It called for an integrated approach that includes public and private investments to boost agriculture productivity – better access to technology and markets – and social protections for the most vulnerable, especially by building resilience to conflict and natural disasters.

The State of Food Security in the World report is a joint effort by the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program. It’s been released ahead of the Second International Conference on Nutrition to be held in Rome this November.