UN World Food Programme

Millennium Hunger Target Underpins Other Millennium Goals

Four Congolese children who receive food in school thanks to WFP. The red cups they use to eat their nutritious porridge are the symbol of WFP's Fill the Cup campaign to feed hungry school children all over the world.

(Copyright: WFP/Katherine Hodgeson)

As the UN looks at progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in New York this week, it is clear that with just five years to go the hunger goal is the one most under threat. And yet addressing hunger is fundamental if the world is going to reach the other MDGs.

ROME – The UN is hosting a summit in New York this week to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight goals agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions.

The goals range from halving extreme poverty and reducing the proportion of hungry people by half, to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015. 

Most threatened MDG

"The hunger goal is the most threatened of the MDGs. Today almost a billion people go to bed hungry. We have seen some progress but we can't give up the fight."
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, 20 September 2010

WFP, naturally, is focused on MDG 1, the goal that aims to tackle poverty and hunger. The target as regards hunger is to go from 20% of the world population hungry in 1990 to 10% by 2015.

Compromised progress

According to the latest figures, we are now at 16%. There was fairly good progress up to the middle of the last decade but then the global food price crisis happened, followed by the financial crisis and then the global economic slowdown. These events have severely compromised progress.

This is worrying not only in itself but also because hunger undermines all of the other Millennium Development Goals. Healthcare interventions don’t work when people are hungry and children cannot learn when they are hungry. In fact, if you look closely you will see that hunger is an important factor for at least six of the MDGs.

Addressing hunger is fundamental if the world is going to reach the other MDGs and any progress on alleviating hunger will have a knock-on, multiplier effect on a range of goals.

Knowledge and technology

The good news is that we have the knowledge and the technology to reach the goal of halving the proportion of hungry people in the world. There is little debate about that. Here, for example, are five cost-effective interventions that we know work:

Examples such as Brazil, where the undernourished dropped from 10% to 6% of the population between 2001 and 2005 (learn more), show that huge achievements are perfectly possible when there is focus, cooperation and determination.

Reaching the hunger MDG will require both more resources and more political will. But no one should say it can’t be done.