FAO: World hunger falls below 800 million

Seventy-two countries have achieved target of halving proportion of the chronically undernourished.

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 795 million — 216 million fewer than in 1990-92 — or around one person out of every nine, according to the latest edition of the annual U.N. hunger report "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015" (SOFI).

In developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment — which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life — has declined to 12.9% of the population, down from 23.3% a quarter of a century ago, reports SOFI 2015, published today by the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

A majority — 72 out of 129 — of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the 'Zero Hunger' generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year," FAO director general Jose Graziano da Silva said.

"If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world's poorest and hungriest people live," IFAD president Kanayo F. Nwanze added. "We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. We must invest in rural areas so that our nations can have balanced growth and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfil their potential."

WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin said, "Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future. Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history."

Challenging environment

Progress towards fully achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered in recent years by challenging global economic conditions, FAO explained.

Extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress — 24 African countries currently face food crises, twice as many as in 1990; around one of every five of the world's undernourished lives in crisis environments characterized by weak governance and acute vulnerability to death and disease.

SOFI 2015 notes that over the past 30 years, crises have evolved from catastrophic, short-term, acute and highly visible events to protracted situations, due to a combination of factors, especially natural disasters and conflicts, with climate change, financial and price crises frequently among the exacerbating factors.

Hunger rates in countries enduring protracted crises are more than three times higher than elsewhere. In 2012, some 366 million people were living in this kind situation — of whom 129 million were undernourished — 19% of all food-insecure people on the planet.

Yet, alongside these challenges, the world population has grown by 1.9 billion since 1990, making reductions of the number of hungry people all the more striking, the report says.

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