Some 842 million people, or roughly one in eight of the world’s total population, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives according to a report released by the UN food agencies on 1 October 2013.
‘The good news is that it is possible for the world to achieve the agreed hunger reduction target by 2015’, IFSW Secretary General Rory Truell observed. The worrying news is that it is only with a strong final push and determined action by governments and others that this will be achieved.
‘And the bad news is that even if we achieve this target, we would still leaves millions in daily hunger. It is morally indefensible, in a world so full of resources, that the UN and governments can accept a target which leaves people in constant, chronic hunger – night and day – all the time. We can and should do better!’
The number in chronic hunger is down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013), published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, while a shocking 15.7 million live in developed countries.
Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.
In addition, in some countries, remittances from migrants are playing a role in reducing poverty, leading to better diets and progress in food security.
Hunger reduction facts
While uneven, the report stresses that developing regions as a whole have made significant progress towards reaching the target of halving the proportion of hungry people by 2015. This target was agreed internationally as part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If the average annual decline since 1990 continues to 2015, the prevalence of undernourishment will reach a level close to the MDG hunger target.
Most of the world’s undernourished people are still found in Southern Asia (295 million), followed by sub-Saharan Africa (223 million) and Eastern Asia (167 million).
To reach the MDG 1 target, the prevalence of hunger needs to be reduced below 12 percent by 2015. It currently stands at 14.3 percent.
As of October 2o13, 62 countries have reached the target of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger by 2015. An additional 6 countries are on track to reach MDG 1 by 2015.
Pro-poor policies needed
The report underlines that economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared,” the report noted.
Tackling malnutrition and permanent harm to children
The UN hunger report not only measures chronic hunger but presents a new suite of indicators for every country to capture the multiple dimensions of food insecurity. These indicators give a more nuanced picture of food insecurity in a country. In some countries, for example, the prevalence of hunger can be low, while at the same time undernutrition rates can be quite high, as exemplified by the proportion of children who are stunted (low height for age) or underweight, whose future health and development are put at risk. Such distinctions are important to improve the effectiveness of measures to reduce hunger and food insecurity in all its dimensions.
The findings and recommendations of SOFI 2013 will be discussed by governments, civil society and private sector representatives at the 7-11 October meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, at FAO headquarters in Rome.
Read State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013)
Read One in eight people around the world go hungry, says U.N. – report from Thomson Reuters Foundation
Pictures from UN