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Food Security & Agriculture

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The Prospects for Ending Hunger: New Figures, Same Problems
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New figures from the UN reveal that the number of hungry people in the world has dropped under the one billion mark. But with 925 million people still hungry, costing poor countries $450 billion a year, does this really reflect progress or good policy?

925 million in chronic hunger worldwide - Food and Agiculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Hunger costs poor countries $450 billion a year - ActionAid

Drop in number of hungry people is more due to luck than good policy - Oxfam International

Link to ActionAid report (PDF): Who's Really Fighting Hunger?

Link to Oxfam report (PDF): Halving Hunger - Still Possible?

Link to FAO report: State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010 - Addressing Food Insecurity in Protracted Crises

17th September 2010

925 million in chronic hunger worldwide

14th September 2010 - Food and Agiculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

FAO and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said that the number of hungry people in the world remains unacceptably high despite expected recent gains that have pushed the figure below 1 billion.

The new estimate of the number of people who will suffer chronic hunger this year is 925 million — 98 million down from 1.023 billion in 2009.

"But with a child dying every six seconds because of undernourishment related problems, hunger remains the world's largest tragedy and scandal," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "This is absolutely unacceptable."

MDGs achievement difficult

The continuing high global hunger level "makes it extremely difficult to achieve not only the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) but also the rest of the MDGs," Diouf warned.

"The achievement of the international hunger reduction target is at serious risk," he added, further noting that recent increases in food prices, if they persist, could hamper efforts to further reduce the numbers of the world's hungry.

"Vigorous and urgent action by nations and the world has been effective in helping to halt galloping hunger numbers," said WFP Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. "But this is no time to relax.  We must keep hunger on the run to ensure stability and to protect lives and dignity."

Flagship report

The new hunger figure is contained in the annual flagship report, "The State of Food Insecurity in the World" (SOFI) to be jointly published by FAO and WFP in October. The figure was released in advance of the September 20-22 Summit meeting in New York called to speed progress towards achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the first of which is to end poverty and hunger.

Last May Diouf also launched a "1 billionhungry campaign" aimed at inciting world leaders into taking firm and urgent action to end hunger. More than half a million people have already signed an online petition calling on politicians to make hunger reduction their top priority and a million are expected by the end of this year.

Yukiko Omura, Vice President of IFAD, said, "the world's hungry are not just numbers. They are people — poor women and men struggling to bring up their children and give them a better life; and they are youth trying to build a future for themselves. It is ironic that the majority of them actually live in rural areas of developing countries. Indeed, over 70 percent of the world's extremely poor — those people who live on less than US$ one a day — live in rural areas. That's a billion people, and four out of five of them are farmers to some extent or the other."

Economic growth, lower prices

The 2010 lower global hunger number resulted largely from renewed economic growth expected this year — particularly in developing countries — and the drop in food prices since mid-2008. The recent increase in food prices, if it continues, will create obstacles in the further reduction of hunger.

Of the eight Millennium Development Goals solemnly agreed by the UN in 2000, MDG 1 pledged to halve the proportion of hungry people from 20 to 10 percent by 2015.With five years to go, that proportion currently stands at 16 percent, however.

Previously, in 1996, a World Food Summit had for the first time set a quantitative target of halving the number of hungry people from roughly 800 million in 1990-92 to about 400 million by 2015. Achieving that goal would mean cutting the number of hungry by over 500 million in the next five years.

Structural problem

The fact that historically the number of undernourished continued to increase even in periods of high growth and relatively low prices indicates that hunger is a structural problem, FAO said. It is therefore clear that economic growth, while essential, will not be sufficient to eliminate hunger within an acceptable period of time, FAO added. But "success stories do exist in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America," Diouf noted. These experiences need to be scaled up and replicated.

Globally, the 2010 hunger figure marked a decline of 9.6 percent from the 2009 level. This reduction was mostly concentrated in Asia, where 80 million fewer people were estimated to be going hungry this year. In sub-Saharan Africa the drop was much smaller - about 12 million - and one out of three people there would continue to be undernourished.

Key findings

Other key findings of the report included:

• Two thirds of the world's undernourished live in just seven countries — Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.

• The region with the most undernourished people continues to be Asia and the Pacific with 578 million.

• The proportion of undernourished people remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa at 30 percent in 2010, or 239 million.

• Progress varies widely at country level. As of 2005-2007 (the most recent period for which complete data was available), the Congo, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria had already achieved MDG 1 in sub-Saharan Africa, and Ethiopia and others are close to achieving it. However, the proportion of undernourished rose to 69 percent in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

• In Asia, Armenia, Myanmar and Viet Nam had already achieved MDG 1 and China is close to doing so.

• In Latin America and the Caribbean, Guyana, Jamaica and Nicaragua had already achieved MDG1 while Brazil is coming close.

Link to original source

Hunger costs poor countries $450 billion a year

14th September 2010 - ActionAid

As Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg prepares to meet world leaders next week in New York to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a new report by ActionAid has revealed that hunger is costing poor nations $450 billion a year - more than ten times the amount needed to halve hunger by 2015 and meet the first goal. 

ActionAid’s report Who's really fighting hunger? shows how the world is failing on its promise to tackle hunger despite over a billion people going hungry every day. The mammoth human cost is eclipsed only by the shocking fact that developing economies are losing these vital billions each year largely because their people are too hungry to work.

Meredith Alexander, Head of Policy at ActionAid said: “On the eve of the most important development summit for five years, a billion people will be going to bed hungry. Despite promises to the contrary, one sixth of humanity doesn't get enough to eat. But we grow enough food to feed every man, woman and child on the planet.

"The real cause of hunger isn't lack of food, it is lack of political will. In Brazil, President Lula made beating hunger a personal priority and the country has cut child malnutrition in half.

“For the last ten years, the UK has been at the forefront of tackling global poverty. The challenge for Nick Clegg is to show the same kind of leadership on hunger as the UK has demonstrated on education, HIV and Aids and debt relief."

The hunger scorecard

ActionAid’s research also shows the real dates countries will meet MDG1 and scores nations on their efforts to fight hunger so far. The report reveals that 20 out of 28 poor nations are off track to halving hunger by 2015 and 12 of these are going backwards. Globally, 20% more people are going hungry now than when the goals were conceived.

Even in fast-growing, emerging economies like India, the failure to invest in agriculture and support small farms, means nearly half of the country’s children are malnourished and one in five of the population is hungry.

The hunger goal is going backwards globally, largely because of a lack of investment in agriculture and rural development, few legal rights to food in poor nations and little or no support services to help farming communities when harvests fail.

In these economically straightened times, the report shows how important it is to realise the fight against hunger is not just about money - it takes political action. When hunger is prioritised, significant progress can be made. Malawi has reduced the number of people living on food hand outs from 4.5 million to 150,000 in just five years.  Brazil has halved the number of underweight children in less than 10 years.  China will meet its hunger goal five years early. With 5 years to go, now is the time for countries rich and poor to follow their example.

G8 nations pledged $22 billion in 2009 to fight hunger, yet ActionAid estimates $14 billion of this is old aid promises repackaged and it is still unclear when or how the money will be spent. The UK has increased its aid to agriculture, but there is still much more it should be doing. Most importantly, the UK needs to prioritise hunger as a key development issue.

ActionAid’s is calling on Clegg to show leadership on hunger and not allow the UK to fade as a leading light in global development.

Link to original source

Drop in number of hungry people is more due to luck than good policy

14th September 2010 - Oxfam International

The world can halve global hunger within five years says a new Oxfam report launched today. The launch of "Halving World Hunger: Still Possible?" coincides with an announcement by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the number of hungry people worldwide has dropped by 98 million to 925 million in the past year.

Oxfam welcomes the news that the number of hungry people has declined for the first time in 15 years – down from a record high of 1.02 billion in 2009. However it warns that the decline is largely down to luck – including two years of good harvests which had, until recently, led to a fall in global food prices – and not the policies and increased investment which are needed to address the underlying causes of hunger.

"Any reduction in the number of hungry people is welcome but the food crisis has not gone away. 925 million hungry people is still a scandal." said Oxfam International Executive Director Jeremy Hobbs.

"The dip in the number of hungry people has more to do with luck then judgement. Another global food crisis could explode at any time unless governments tackle the underlying causes of hunger, including food price volatility, decades of under investment in agriculture, and climate change," added Hobbs.

In less than a week world leaders will meet in New York to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals including the goal to halve world hunger by 2015 (MDG 1). In the ten years since the MDGs were agreed, the proportion of hungry people in the world has only decreased by just half a percent – from 14 percent in 2000 to 13.5 per cent today.

Oxfam's new report, "Halving World Hunger: Still Possible?" points to countries such as Vietnam that have achieved or are on track to achieve MDG 1 as evidence that halving world hunger is still possible. These countries have dramatically reduced hunger at home by supporting poor food producers and providing social safety nets for people who cannot produce or buy enough food.

Oxfam calls on world leaders, meeting in New York from 20-22 September, to back the development of a global action plan on hunger as part of a broader MDG rescue package. The action plan should:

  • Support the development of national plans to reduce hunger;

  • Ensure these plans are properly funded through increased international aid and national investment; and

  • Develop the global policies needed to address global threats to food security.

"It's been ten years since world leaders vowed to halve global hunger by 2015 but we are no closer towards achieving this goal. We know it is possible. We have the recipe for doing it. The only missing ingredient is the political will. When world leaders get together in New York they must put their weight behind a global action plan that will bring all countries together to tackle hunger," said Hobbs.

"Tackling hunger must be part of a broader MDG package. We cannot ask a mother to decide between feeding and educating her child. We cannot afford to miss a single Millennium Development Goal," said Hobbs.

Link to original source