Joint UN report says rate of world hunger dropping amid wider eradication efforts

A farmer in The Gambia shows a dry tuft of rice in a drought period. Photo: FAO/Seyllou Diallo

Rome, 27 May 2015 – The number of the world’s chronically undernourished has dropped below the 800 million mark as an increasing number of countries hit their Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets on hunger, according to a new United Nations report released today by the Organization’s three food agencies.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 (SOFI) report, which was jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), reveals that the number of hungry declined to 795 million – 216 million fewer than in the 1990 – 1992 biennium and nearly 100 million fewer than in 2012. This, the agencies said in a press release, is due in large part to successes in the world’s developing regions.

“The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime,” said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva.

“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,” he added.

A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal 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.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze conceded that in order to create a world free from poverty and hunger, the international community would need to make it “a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world’s poorest and hungriest people live.”

“We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities,” Mr. Nwanze declared. “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.”

Despite great strides in reducing global hunger, however, the UN report notes that progress towards achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered in recent years by challenging global economic conditions as well as extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife.

The SOFI 2015 report points out, in fact, that over the past 30 years crises have evolved from catastrophic, short-term events to more protracted situations causing higher hunger rates in countries suffering from them.

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.

To that point, large reductions in hunger were achieved in East Asia and very fast progress was posted in Latin America and the Caribbean, southeast and central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa, showing that inclusive economic growth, agricultural investments and social protection, along with political stability makes the elimination of hunger possible.

Above all, the political will to make hunger eradication a paramount development objective has fostered progress, particularly through efforts promoting improved agricultural productivity, inclusive economic growth, and the expansion of social protection.

“Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin added.

“Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history.”