Number of Hungry Dips, But Still ‘Unacceptably High’

The number of hungry people in the world has fallen to 925 million from the record 1.02 billion reached in 2009. But it is still unacceptably high – equivalent to around one in seven people on earth – and hunger must remain on the political agenda if we are to make further progress.

ROME -- The number of hungry people in the world has dropped  to 925 million from the record 1.02 billion reached in 2009, mainly thanks to economic growth in developing countries and lower food prices, new figures show.

The new figure, while marking an improvement, remains higher than before the food and economic crises of 2008 and 2009, said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at a press conference in Rome on Tuesday. Read FAO news release

“It’s good news that these numbers appear to be on the decline. But 925 million people hungry is still a shockingly high number. Without the continued focus, support and dedication of the world, these gains could be quickly lost. Now is not the time to relax,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

Just one disaster away

She added that on top of the 925 million people who were already hungry there were many more who were vulnerable. "I have just visited flood-devastated Pakistan and the drought-devastated Sahel. These are vivid reminders of how quickly people can fall into hunger. More than 1 billion people are just one flood, one drought, one earthquake away from urgent hunger.”

WFP and FAO, both based in Rome, are sister agencies working together to fight global hunger. They are joined in this battle by the third Rome-based UN agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. But before this latest drop, hunger had been slowly and steadily on the rise for more than a decade, with the food price crisis leading to a rapid acceleration in 2008.

International cereal prices have declined from their 2008 peaks after two bumper yields, and the global supply is now adequate. But in most low income countries local food prices remain higher than before the crisis, with the result that many poor families still struggle to buy enough food.

Future concerns

The recent increase in food prices, if it persists, will create additional obstacles in the fight to further reduce hunger, FAO said.

WFP, which buys much of its food assistance on open markets, is concerned about recent volatility on food commodity markets. At the same time, a generalized crisis in food prices as in 2008 is seen as unlikely as the recent price rises were triggered by droughts, floods and other localized problems in wheat-producing areas.

The latest FAO figures showed that most of the world’s hungry live in developing countries, where they account for 16 percent of the population. The region with the greatest number of hungry people remains Asia and the Pacific.

Fact box:
  • young girl eating rice from a spoonDeveloping countries account for 98 percent of the world’s undernourished people.
  • Two thirds of those live in just 7 countries (Bangladesh, China, DRC, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan).
  • The region with the largest number of hungry people continues to be Asia & Pacific – but with a 12 per cent decline from 658 million in 2009 to 578 million in 2010.
  • The proportion of hungry people remains highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, at 30 per cent in 2010.

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