Just how deep is the hunger suffered by the world's more than 800 million undernourished people? A new tool for assessing the severity of want has been introduced by FAO in this year's edition of the state of food insecurity in the world: the depth of hunger. This is a measure of the per person food deficit of the undernourished population within each country. Measured in kilocalories, it aims to assess just how empty people's plates are each day.
According to the report 826 million people around the world do not get enough to eat -- 792 million people in developing countries and another 34 million in industrialized countries and countries in transition. These figures represent essentially no change since the last count -- a sad indictment of the world's failure to respond adequately in a time of unprecedented plenty.
FAO estimates that the number of hungry people in developing countries was declining by 8 million a year in the first half of the 1990s. But if we are to fulfil the pledge made at the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world by 2015, that number must reach 20 million a year.
Some progress is on the horizon, however. FAO projections to 2015 suggest that, due to slowing population growth and increases in productivity and income, more people will escape the prison of hunger.
But hungry people cannot wait another 15 years. The many causes of undernourishment -- from poverty and conflict to poor infrastructure and limited investment in agriculture -- will require sustained attention everywhere, from the village to the international community. In a world enjoying record wealth, it is a moral imperative to ensure that every person on the planet realizes their right to be free from hunger.