Nearly 870mn people suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2010-12: UN

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Rome/Italy: Nearly 870 million people, or one in eight in the world, suffered from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012, according to a new UN hunger report released in Rome.

The data updates a 2009 UN report that put the figure at one billion.

The 'State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012', jointly published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), presented better estimates of chronic undernourishment based on an improved methodology and data for the last two decades.

The global number of hungry people declined by 132 million between 1990-92 and 2010-12, or from 18.6 percent to 12.5 percent of the world's population, and from 23.2 percent to 14.9 percent in developing countries - putting the MDG target within reach if adequate, appropriate actions are taken, the report said.

Still Jomo Kwame Sundaram, FAO's Assistant Director-General said told the conference that there needed to be "redoubled efforts" to be able to reach the MDG target by 2015.

And FAO's Director-General, Jose Graziano da Silva, while noting that 1 in every 8 persons around the world was hungry said that in a world of plenty, with enough food to feed all, "this is unacceptable". And stressed that "for us FAO the only acceptable number for hunger is zero".

The report underlined that overall growth was necessary but not sufficient for a sustained hunger reduction. Agricultural growth is particularly effective in reducing hunger and malnutrition in poor countries since most of the poor depend on agriculture and related activities for at least part of their livelihoods. Agricultural growth involving smallholders, especially women, will be most effective in reducing extreme poverty and hunger when it generates employment for the poor.

Carlos Sere, Chief Development Strategist at IFAD said that the impact, in terms of reducing poverty, of agricultural growth was "five times the impact of growth in other sectors of the economy". He noted that that "clearly shows there is a huge potential here to tackle poverty through smart agricultural growth".

The numbers of hunger released today are part of a revised series that go back to 1990. It uses updated information on population, food supply, food losses, dietary energy requirements and other factors. They also better estimate the distribution of food (as measured in terms of dietary energy supply) within countries.

The state of food insecurity (SOFI) 2012 notes that the methodology does not capture the short-term effects of food price surges and other economic shocks. FAO is also working to develop a wider set of indicators to better capture dietary quality and other dimensions of food security.

Valerie Guarnieri, Head of Programme at WFP says that growth needs to translate into better nutritional outcomes through enhanced opportunities for poor and vulnerable individuals; She added that poor and vulnerable house holds needed to access more nutritious foods, and to understand the importance of nutrition at the early childhood stage, "in order to address the vulnerability and give them the best possible start in life, give children the best possible start in life."

Guarnieri also said that the study she was referring to showed a 46 percent increase in male income, and a 22 percent increase in female incomes linked to that early nutritional investment.

According to the report, growth is clearly important, but it is not always sufficient, or rapid enough. Hence, social protection systems are needed to ensure that the most vulnerable are not left behind and can also participate in, contribute to and benefit from growth.

Measures such as cash transfers, food vouchers or health insurance are needed for the most vulnerable who often cannot take immediate advantage of growth opportunities. Social protection can improve nutrition for young children - an investment that will pay off in the future with better educated, stronger and healthier adults. With effective social protection complementing inclusive economic growth, hunger and malnutrition can be eliminated.

The vast majority of the hungry, 852 million, live in developing countries -- around 15 percent of their population, while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries. The number of hungry declined more sharply between 1990 and 2007 than previously believed. Since 2007-2008, however, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and levelled off. -UNifeed
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