New report identifies almost 870 million people globally as chronically undernourished

Nearly 870 million people, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012, according to the new UN hunger report released today.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012 (SOFI), jointly published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), presents better estimates of chronic undernourishment based on an improved methodology and data for the last two decades.

Key points:

  • The vast majority of the hungry, 852 million, live in developing countries -- around 15 percent of their population -- while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries.
  • Africa was the only region where the number of hungry grew over the period, from 175 million to 239 million, with nearly 20 million added in the past four years.
  • The global number of hungry people declined by 132 million between 1990-92 and 2010-12, or from 18.6 percent to 12.5 percent of the world's population, and from 23.2 percent to 14.9 percent in developing countries - putting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target within reach if adequate, appropriate actions are taken.
  • The number of hungry declined more sharply between 1990 and 2007 than previously believed. Since 2007-2008, however, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and leveled off.
  • The report suggests that if appropriate actions are taken to reverse the slowdown in 2007-08 and to feed the hungry, achieving the MDG of reducing by half the share of hungry people in the developing world by 2015 is still within reach.

    "If the average annual hunger reduction of the past 20 years continues through to 2015, the percentage of undernourishment in the developing countries would reach 12.5 percent - still above the MDG target of 11.6 percent, but much closer to it than previously estimated," the report says.

  • Even while 870 million people remain hungry, the world is increasingly faced with a double burden of malnutrition, with chronic undernourishment and micronutrient malnutrition co-existing with obesity, overweight and related non-communicable diseases (affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide).

"In today's world of unprecedented technical and economic opportunities, we find it entirely unacceptable that more than 100 million children under five are underweight, and therefore unable to realize their full human and socio-economic potential, and that childhood malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 2.5 million children every year," say José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin, respectively the Heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, in a foreword to the report.

"We note with particular concern that the recovery of the world economy from the recent global financial crisis remains fragile. We nonetheless appeal to the international community to make extra efforts to assist the poorest in realizing their basic human right to adequate food. The world has the knowledge and the means to eliminate all forms of food insecurity and malnutrition," they add.

Asia leads in number of hungry; hunger rises in Africa
Among the regions, undernourishment in the past two decades decreased nearly 30 percent in Asia and the Pacific, from 739 million to 563 million, largely due to socio-economic progress in many countries in the region. Despite population growth, the prevalence of undernourishment in the region decreased from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent.

Latin America and the Caribbean also made progress, falling from 65 million hungry in 1990-1992 to 49 million in 2010-2012, while the prevalence of undernourishment dipped from 14.6 percent to 8.3 percent. But the rate of progress has slowed recently.

Africa was the only region where the number of hungry grew over the period, from 175 million to 239 million, with nearly 20 million added in the past four years. The prevalence of hunger, although reduced over the entire period, has risen slightly over the past three years, from 22.6 percent to 22.9 percent - with more than one in four hungry. And in sub-Saharan Africa, the modest progress achieved in recent years up to 2007 was reversed, with hunger rising 2 percent per year since then.

Developed regions also saw the number of hungry rise, from 13 million in 2004-2006 to 16 million in 2010-2012, reversing a steady decrease in previous years from 20 million in 1990-1992.

About the Report & FAO
The numbers of hunger released in the Report are part of a revised series that go back to 1990. It uses updated information on population, food supply, food losses, dietary energy requirements and other factors. They also better estimate the distribution of food (as measured in terms of dietary energy supply) within countries.

Download Food Insecurity in the World 2012

Discover more about the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at www.fao.org

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