Progress in cutting global hunger virtually stopped, UN reports
Chronic hunger affects nearly 850 million people worldwide, but progress in reducing malnourishment has virtually stopped, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says in its annual report on global hunger published today.
According to “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2002,” between 1998-2000, an estimated 840 million people were found to be undernourished. Meanwhile, between 1990-92 and 1998-2000, the number of hungry people decreased by barely 2.5 million a year, signalling a drastic slowdown compared to previous developments.
“If trends are not sharply reversed, the world will be very far from reaching the 1996 World Food Summit goal” of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015, said Charles Riemenschneider, FAO Director for North America.
The FAO report also highlights the particularly high mortality rate among children under five, while noting that life expectancy for youngsters is low. “In the worst-affected countries, a newborn child can look forward to an average of barely 38 years of healthy life, compared to over 70 years of life in the 24 wealthy nations,” the report says.
Children also suffer from what the report terms “hidden hunger,” caused by micronutrient malnutrition from diets that supply an inadequate amount of vitamins and minerals essential for human growth and development. Between 100 million and 140 million youngsters suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness, while some 20 million people worldwide are mentally handicapped as a result of iodine deficiency.
Faced with the current slowdown in hunger reduction, the FAO is calling for a $24 billion increase in public investment in poor countries to realize the 1996 Summit goals, proposing that the financing be provided equally by industrialized and developing countries.
The agency also urges combining investment in agriculture and rural development with measures to enhance direct and immediate access to food for the most seriously undernourished. With 70 per cent of the world’s hungry living in rural areas, the FAO recommends providing people in the countryside with opportunities to improve livelihoods in a sustainable way.
“Cutting the number of hungry people by half is not only a moral obligation, it is a good investment that will have solid economic returns for both the poor and rich,” Mr. Riemenschneider said.