Almost 800 million people in the developing world do not have enough to eat. Another 34 million people in the industrialized countries and countries in transition also suffer from chronic food insecurity. If all the world's undernourished people were gathered together, the population of the continent of the hungry would dwarf that of every other continent except Asia.
The hunger of these people is not a transitory condition. It is chronic. It is debilitating. Sometimes it is deadly. It blights the lives of all who are affected and undermines national economies and development processes where it is found on a large scale, as is the case across much of the developing world.
In this section, the figures and tables (see links below) and map (above) depict the scale of the problem worldwide at the turn of the millennium. They also show changes that have taken place in 98 developing countries between 1990/92 and 1995/97, the most recent period for which information is available.
That information highlights the fact that progress has been made. On a global scale, the gains have been sufficient to bring the total number of undernourished people in the developing world below the 800 million figure cited at the World Food Summit in 1996.
The gains are encouraging, but far from satisfactory. More detailed analysis confirms that the momentum is too slow and the progress too uneven to achieve the goal set by the Summit and reduce the total to around 400 million by the year 2015. In fact, the number of hungry people is growing in many parts of the world.
Small increases or decreases in the number of undernourished people from one year to the next may simply reflect transitory conditions that claim our attention but do not touch the fundamental problem. Significant, lasting change in the number is the appropriate indicator of progress or setbacks in banishing chronic hunger from our world.