Global Hunger down, but Millions Still Chronically Hungry!

Tanja Folnovic

Agronomy Expert

FAO’s most recent estimates indicate that, globally, 842 million people – 12 percent of the global population – were unable to meet their dietary energy requirements in 2011–13, down from 868 million reported for 2010–12.

That means, around one in eight people in the world have suffered from chronic hunger, not having enough food for an active and healthy life. The vast majority of hungry people – 827 million – live in developing regions, where the prevalence of undernourishment is now estimated at 14.3 percent.

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. They can also contribute to boosting productive investments by smallholder farmers.

Sub-Saharan Africa has made only modest progress in recent years and remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with one in four people (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry. No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa witnessed slow progress. More substantial reductions in both the number of hungry and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of East Asia, Southeastern Asia, and in Latin America.

While the estimated number of undernourished people has continued to decrease, the rate of progress appears insufcient to reach international goals for hunger reduction in developing regions – the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) target, which is to halve the number of hungry people by 2015, and the 2001 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) hunger target, which is to halve the proportion of hungry people in the total population by 2015.

"Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread. When they are combined with social protection and other measures that increase the incomes of poor families, they can have an even more positive effect and spur rural development, by creating vibrant markets and employment opportunities, resulting in equitable economic growth," the FAO heads said.

FAO hunger by regions

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.