Number of hungry people worldwide drops below 800M, U.N. says

Rome | Thomson Reuters Foundation –– The number of people in the world still going to bed hungry 15 years after the U.N. placed eradicating hunger and extreme poverty at the top of its Millennium Development Goals has dropped to 795 million, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The report by three U.N. agencies claims that number is a reduction of 167 million people over the last 10 years.

“This is good news,” Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) told reporters.

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Only 72 of the world’s 129 developing countries, 56 per cent, met the MDG of reducing the proportion of hungry people by half in the last 15 years, said the report, State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015.

South Asia faces the highest burden of hunger, where as many as 281 million people lack sufficient food, U.N. agencies said.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hunger, with more than 23 per cent of the population not getting enough to eat, the report said.

Poor governance, violent conflicts and protracted crises are holding back many African nations. In 1990, 12 countries across the continent were facing food crises. Twenty years later the number has risen to 24, including 19 that have been in crisis for more than eight of the previous 10 years.

The regions that made the most progress include South America, where less than five per cent of the population faces hunger today, a reduction of more than 50 per cent since 1990.

Central Asia, South East Asia and parts of North Africa also showed significant progress, the FAO and other Rome-based U.N. agencies said.

Economic growth alone often isn’t enough to end hunger, instead governments should focus on “inclusive growth,” the report recommends.

Support for the poor through social investments, such as cash transfer programmes, employment projects, food distribution schemes, health care and education helped successful countries reduce the number of hungry residents, U.N. agencies said.

Strong harvests in much of the world, coupled with reduced oil prices, mean that global food costs are nearing a five-year low.

These trends, along with economic growth and other factors, helped reduce the number of hungry people worldwide by 10 million in the past year, according to the FAO.

In the developed countries, some 15 million people also suffer from hunger, the report said.

“When we talk about these numbers, we need to remember we are talking about people,” said Josefina Stubbs, a senior official with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“The next 10 years will be fundamental for eradicating hunger.”

Chris Arsenault reports on food politics for the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Rome.

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