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UN hunger report: 795 million still chronically undernourished

Rice Most of the world’s hungry live in Asia (Photo: ILO/Joaquin Bobot Go)

About 795 million people in the world, or one in nine, suffer from hunger, according to new estimates published on Wednesday by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The vast majority of the world’s hungry - 780 million – live in developing countries. Numbers only declined by 10 million as compared to last year’s report. While some regions have made progress in the fight against hunger, others continue to lag behind. Latin America has been able to reduce the prevalence of undernourishment to 5.5% of the population. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, one in four people remain chronically undernourished and the numbers even increased steadly to 220 million over the past years. Two thirds of the world’s hungry, 512 million people, live in Asia. Although 55 countries will not achieve the Millennium Development target of halving the proportion of the chronically undernourished, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva remains optimistic: “The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime.” According to the FAO, inclusive economic growth, agricultural investments and social protection, along with political stability and political will are preconditions for the elimination of hunger. But in recent years, progress towards fully achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered by extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife. The report estimates that around 19% of the world’s undernourished live in countries enduring protracted crises. In order to meet the MDG hunger target, the prevalance of undernourishment in developing countries would have need to halve compared to 1990 levels. The proportion only declined to 12.9% of the population, down from 23.3% a quarter of a century ago, also due to a growing world population which has increased by 1.9 billion since 1990. The more ambitious World Food Summit target of halving the absolute number of undernourished people to 500 million remains out of reach. Today, there are only 216 million fewer people who are suffering from hunger than in 1990-92. In addition, much of the progess can be attributed to China where the number of undernourished people fell by 155 million in this period. “If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world’s poorest and hungriest people live,” said IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze. (ab)

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