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UN: World Hunger Declines, But More Effort Needed

A man works at his lettuce garden in Cocody, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, May 26, 2015.

A report by the United Nations finds that just under 800 million people around the world are going hungry today, but that estimate opf world hunger has declined by 216 million people in the past 25 years. The annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015, says chronic undernourishment also has declined in the world's developing regions but that more progress is needed.

The report is a joint effort by the United Nations' three major food agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program.

The report finds 72 out of 129 developing countries will have achieved the Millennium Development Goal of cutting hunger in half by the end of this year.

The director of the World Food Program's policy and program division, Stanlake Samkange, applauds this result, but says it is too soon to celebrate.

“Since the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals, extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half. However, hunger has only been reduced by 14.5 percent. This provides clear evidence for the fact that growth and rising incomes do not correlate proportionately with improved food security and nutrition. Economic growth is not always inclusive. Rural livelihoods are not always invested in,” said Samkange.

The report’s hunger map shows wide differences among the regions persist. It finds large reductions in hunger in East Asia and very fast progress in Latin America and the Caribbean, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa.

It says sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world.

Stanlake Samkange of WFP says chronic hunger on the continent actually is on the rise.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one in four are estimated to remain undernourished," he said. "Crisis environments like extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress in sub-Saharan Africa, but, also in other countries. Globally, one in five of the world’s undernourished lives in a crisis environment. Protracted crises have in many countries prevented the protection of vulnerable population groups and the promotion of income opportunities for all.”

The report says severe food insecurity is close to being eradicated in North Africa, where the prevalence of undernourishment is now below five percent.

Authors of the report say no single solution exists for improving food security but that certain measures can have a great impact. They say improved agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, leads to less hunger and poverty.

And they say economic growth must be inclusive and benefit everyone in society, not just those who already are well off.

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