Global perspective Human stories

Hunger reduction rates slow down worldwide, UN food agency warns

Hunger reduction rates slow down worldwide, UN food agency warns

The United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today warned that hunger reduction rates around the world were slowing down, with most developing countries even experiencing increases in the number of hungry people.

According to FAO's annual report released on the eve of World Food Day, the number of hungry people declined in the 1990s by an average of 6 million a year. At that rate, says the report, State of Food Insecurity in the World 2001, it would take 60 years to reduce to 400 million the number of hungry people in the world, the target set for 2015 by the 1996 World Food Summit.

"Clearly, there has been a slowdown in the reduction of undernourishment in the world," FAO says, estimating that it would take an average annual decrease of 22 million to achieve the World Food Summit goal.

The overall decline in the number of undernourished in the developing regions hides contrasting trends in different countries, the report says. Only 32 of the 99 developing countries studied recorded a decrease in the number of undernourished people between 1990-92 and 1997-99. In these 32 countries, 116 million people were moved out of the ranks of the undernourished. But, the number either did not fall or actually increased in the other developing countries for a total increase of 77 million people.

The report notes that the "remarkable growth in food availability achieved in the developing countries more than halved the proportion of undernourished in the total population from 37 percent in the late 1960s to 17 percent at the end of the last century." However, the decrease was not sufficient to halve the actual number of undernourished in the developing world, estimated at 956 million in 1969-71 and now as high as 777 million in 1997-99, FAO's latest three-year average estimate.

The report notes "a smaller increase in production would suffice if its growth were accompanied by more equitable access to food. This could be achieved through redistribution - of food itself, of the means of producing it or of the purchasing power needed to buy it - to those currently on the lower rungs of the food access ladder."

In connection with World Food Day, observed each year on 16 October, FAO and the European Parliament have organized a round-table discussion to evaluate results of global initiatives enacted by major development stakeholders as part of the World Food Summit goals. The talks will also look at food security issues, as well as initiatives undertaken by the agency's specialized services in transboundary animal diseases.