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FAO Says Over 920 Million Now Considered Undernourished

There's new information today on the effects of soaring food prices around the world. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says rising prices have "plunged an additional 75 million people below the hunger threshold." The FAO says that means there are now 923 million undernourished people worldwide.

FAO economist Kostas Stamoulis says Africa is bearing the brunt of the problem.

"The proportion of people in the total population who suffer from hunger remains the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where one in three people are estimated to be chronically hungry in 2003 to 2005. Now, coming to Africa, in particular, the overall number of undernourished in the region increased by 43 million from 169 (million) to 212 million between 1992 and 2003-2005. However, there were several countries in sub-Saharan Africa which did manage to reduce the proportion of hungry people in their population," he says.

Stamoulis explains who is the hardest hit.

"Our estimates show that the poorest, the landless and the female-headed households seem to be the categories of people in the developing countries that are hurt most by the high food prices," he says.

What's more, farmers are hard hit because it's costing more to produce food. Some fertilizers are now too expensive for many farmers.

The FAO economist says unless hunger is tackled, it will be very difficult to achieve many Millennium Development Goals.

"Hunger is a cause of poverty; it's a problem in itself, and not just a consequence of poverty. Unless we address hunger directly, that will affect negatively every effort to reduce income poverty. We have shown through our work that the effect of hunger on people's earnings, ability to earn (an) income, and the economic growth of entire countries is substantial," he says.

Stamoulis also says hunger makes child mortality rates rise and makes it more difficult for children to learn in school.