Counting and locating hungry people

An overwhelming majority of the undernourished people in developing countries live in Asia and the Pacific. This region is home to 70 percent of the total population of the developing world. And it accounts for almost two-thirds (526 million) of the undernourished people as well. India alone has more undernourished people (204 million) than all of sub-Saharan

Africa combined. With India's neighbours added in, the South Asian subregion accounts for more than one-third of the world total (284 million). Another 30 percent (240 million) live in Southeast and East Asia, more than 164 million in China.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to almost a quarter of the developing world's hungry people. The problem varies in severity across the continent. Although West Africa has the largest total population of any of the African subregions, it has the fewest undernourished. By contrast, East Africa, with a slightly smaller total population, has more than twice as many undernourished people. The numbers in Central and Southern Africa are also proportionately larger, although both have much smaller total populations.
Click on each category to see national figures

As these figures suggest, in addition to looking at the numbers of people afflicted by hunger, it is also important to consider the proportion of the population affected on a national and regional basis. This analytical approach spotlights areas where problems are most severe. It also helps identify groups of countries that may share common problems and common priorities for action.

Overall, more than a quarter of the world's chronically hungry people live in countries where the prevalence of undernourishment is very high (35 percent or more). And in all but three of these countries, the proportion and number of hungry people have been increasing for some time.

The problem is especially severe in Central, East and Southern Africa. Almost half (44 percent) of the 340 million people living in the 26 countries of these subregions are undernourished. Only six countries elsewhere in the world have such high prevalence rates - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Haiti, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mongolia and Yemen.

Around 570 million undernourished people - almost three-quarters of the world total - live in countries where the prevalence of hunger is neither very low (below 5 percent) nor very high (above 35 percent). While Asian countries are about equally divided between the "moderately low" (5-19 percent) and "moderately high" (20-34 percent) categories, most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean fall in the former. Six million undernourished people live in countries where the prevalence is very or extremely low, mainly in the Near East (see chart below).

  Progress and setbacks in developing countries