Number Of World’s Hungry Tops A Billion

Published on 19 June 2009

What action can you take to help the hungry billion? Find out here 

Copyright: WFP/Photolibrary

There are more hungry people in the world than ever before. More than one billion people, almost a sixth of humanity, are now undernourished, according to the latest estimates from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

ROME – The number of hungry people on the planet will this year reach a historic high of 1.02 billion, FAO announced recently, putting the blame for the latest increases on the global economic slowdown and stubbornly high food prices in many countries. Read news release

The world has reached a sad milestone, reversing a four-decade positive trend of nations pulling themselves out of hunger, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, commenting on the new figure.

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"Unless the world responds, we are in danger of losing a generation to hunger and malnutrition,” she continued. "We have the know-how, the tools and the technology to feed the world. Let history not say of our generation that we let the opportunity of ending hunger slip through our fingers."

100 million more

About 100 million more people than last year have been pushed into chronic hunger and poverty, FAO said, noting that the economic crisis has pushed incomes down and increased unemployment.

Research by WFP shows that poor households all over the developing world are eating fewer and less nutritious meals and many are cutting back on healthcare and schooling for children. Read more

Whereas good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade. View hunger stats

Access nutritious food

More recently, the economic slowdown and stubbornly high food prices has made it harder than ever for huge swathes of the world’s poor to access enough nutritious food.

Sheeran noted the coincidence that the numbers of hungry people in the world and web users are now both more than a billion. “The billion internet users of the world have a tremendous opportunity to help the billion hungry,” she said. “We call on them to seize that opportunity.”

With this in mind, WFP is today launching a new page on its website encouraging web users to take a number of actions to help fight global hunger. A Billion For A Billion.

Urban poor affected

This year the number of hungry people is expected to grow overall by about 11 percent, FAO projects, drawing on analysis by the US Department of Agriculture. The urban poor will probably face the most severe problems because lower export demand and reduced foreign direct investment are likely to hit urban jobs harder. But rural areas will not be spared.

“We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions,” FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said at a news conference, adding that the situation posed a risk for world peace and security.

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about the author

Martin Penner

Web Editor

Martin Penner, a former journalist, has worked for WFP since 2008. He is based at WFP's Rome headquarters, where he manages content on the organization's website and other online platforms.