Putting a face on world hunger: New FAO report assesses food insecurity
To fight world hunger, policy-makers, the public and the media need to know precisely who is hungry and why. This is the information contained in FAO's latest publication, "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 1999" (SOFI). SOFI provides detailed data on the number of people facing hunger by region and looks at a broad range of factors that contribute to food insecurity.
The report offers some encouraging news. Since 1990/92, the number of people going hungry in developing countries has declined by 40 million. Malnourishment fell in 37 countries between 1990/92 and 1995/97.
But the number of hungry people in developing countries remains unacceptably high, at 790 million. The findings in SOFI make it clear that at the current rate of progress - 8 million fewer undernourished people each year - the World Food Summit's goal of reducing the number of hungry people in the world by half by the year 2015 will not be reached.
"The State of Food Insecurity in the World 1999" also presents the first data on hunger in industrialized regions. According to SOFI, around 34 million undernourished people are living in developed countries. More than three-quarters of them are in the countries in transition in Eastern Europe and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Yet some regions have made impressive progress over the past two decades, demonstrating that hunger is not an intractable problem. Despite declines in Afghanistan and Iraq, most countries in the Near East and North Africa have managed to attain very low levels of undernourishment, accounting for 10 of the 14 developing countries where undernourishment affects less than 5 percent of the population. In Asia, only Mongolia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have seen their rates of malnourishment increase. Many Latin American countries are also well on their way to food security. Although hunger has become worse in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, several West African countries have made gains.
14 October 1999