World hunger falls to fewer than 800 million people

World hunger falls to fewer than 800 million people

UN report finds 72 countries have cut proportion of the chronically undernourished in half

There are now fewer hungry people in the world, according to the latest edition of the United Nation's hunger report for 2015.

While the number stands at 795 million, it has dropped by 216 million since 1990-92, UN said.

The proportion of people in developing nations 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.

A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries have halved the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin.

Raising the productivity of family farmers is an effective way out of poverty and hunger, FAO's new report says. (Photo copyright FAO/ Sergey Kozmin)

UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director General José Graziano da Silva said that figure indicateds that hunger can be eliminated "in our lifetime."

Related: Agribusiness Exec Says Hunger Is Multi-Faceted Issue

World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousin added that, "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."

Progress towards fully achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered in recent years by "challenging global economic conditions," the report said, noting that extreme weather, political instability and civil issues have pushed food security back.

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, the report said.

Hunger rates in countries enduring "protracted crises" are more than three times higher than elsewhere. In 2012, 19%of all food-insecure people on the planet were in these situations.

Where hunger remains, is reduced
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.

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Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world – at 23.2%. However, African nations that invested more in improving agricultural productivity and basic infrastructure achieved hunger goals.

Related: Global Dialogue on Family Farming Calls for Policy Action

The proportion of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has dropped from 14.7% to 5.5% since 1990, while the share of underweight children (below 5 years of age) also declined sharply.

Countries in Eastern and Southeast Asia have achieved steady and rapid reduction in both malnourishment indicators. In southern Asia, the prevalence of undernourishment has declined modestly, to 15.7% from 23.9%, but much greater progress was made in reducing underweight among young children.

Severe food insecurity is close to being eradicated in North Africa, with the prevalence of undernourishment below 5%, while dietary quality is of growing concern in the region, where there is a rising prevalence of overweight and obesity.

In West Asia, where hygiene conditions are generally advanced and child underweight rates low, the incidence of hunger has risen due to war, civil strife and consequent large migrant and refugee populations in some countries.

Achieving lower hunger numbers
Improved agricultural productivity, especially by small and family farmers, leads to important gains in hunger and poverty reduction, the report finds.

While economic growth is always beneficial, it needs to be inclusive to help reduce hunger, the report said. Inclusive growth provides a proven avenue for those with fewer assets and skills in boosting their incomes, and providing them the resilience they need to weather natural and man-made shocks.  Raising the productivity of family farmers is an effective way out of poverty and hunger.

The expansion of social protection – often cash transfers to vulnerable households, but also food vouchers, health insurance or school meal programs, perhaps linked to guaranteed procurement contracts with local farmers – correlated strongly with progress in hunger reduction and in assuring that all members of society have the healthy nutrition to pursue productive lives.

View the full State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report online.

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