Press Release 00/56
THE STATE OF FOOD INSECURITY IN THE WORLD SHOWS NO PROGRESS TOWARDS WORLD
FOOD SUMMIT TARGET
HUNGRY PEOPLE CANNOT WAIT ANOTHER 15 YEARS, FAO WARNS
London/Rome, 16 October 2000.-There has been no improvement since last count
in the rate of decline of the number of undernourished in the world: 826
million people still do not get enough to eat in a time of unprecedented
plenty. This is the key message in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's
annual report The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2000) released
today simultaneously in London, Rome, Washington, Nairobi, Bangkok, Berlin,
Dublin and several other cities.
Current projections indicate that unless extra efforts are made to accelerate
progress the 1996 World Food Summit goal of cutting the number of undernourished
to 400 million by 2015 will not be achieved before 2030 - 15 years late.
"Hungry people cannot wait another 15 years," the SOFI report emphasizes.
According to FAO, the rate of decline in the number of hungry people -- slightly
fewer than 8 million per year during the 1990s -- is woefully inadequate.
A reduction of at least 20 million every year between now and 2015 is needed
to realize the World Food Summit target. The lack of progress towards the
eradication of hunger underlines "the urgency of immediate, determined and
truly effective action," the FAO report underlines.
The report carefully updates the estimate of the number of undernourished
people around the world. For the period 1996-98, 792 million people in developing
nations and another 34 million in industrialized countries and countries
in transition were undernourished - essentially no change since 1995-97.
Hartwig de Haen, FAO's Assistant Director-General, Economic and Social
Department, said this year SOFI goes beyond estimating the number and prevalence
of undernourished people. "It presents information on how hungry are the
hungry and who are the hungry. Societies with a greater depth of hunger are
also societies with a high infant mortality rate and significantly lower
De Haen also said that SOFI 2000 moves beyond overall statistics by pinpointing
more narrowly the specific groups who are vulnerable. For the first time,
it presents indicators of the depth of people's hunger and statistics on
the number of hungry in the countries in transition. It also highlights the
fact that women, because of their different physiology, are more subject
to nutritional problems.
"This refining of information is an important tool for policy-makers. It
will allow them to move forward in a more focused way, directing their actions
and resources more precisely and effectively to the places where the need
is greatest," de Haen underlined.
The depth of hunger, or food deficit, is measured by comparing the average
amount of dietary energy that undernourished people get from the foods they
eat with the minimum amount of dietary energy they need to maintain body
weight and undertake light activity.
Knowing the number of kilocalories missing from the diets of undernourished
people helps round out the picture of food deprivation in a country. On average,
the 826 million chronically hungry people worldwide lack 100-400 kilocalories
per day, the FAO report says .
In addition to increasing susceptibility to disease, chronic hunger means
that children may be listless and unable to concentrate in school, mothers
may give birth to underweight babies and adults may lack the energy to fulfil
In terms of sheer numbers, there are more chronically hungry people in Asia,
but the depth of hunger is clearly the greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. There,
in 19 countries out of 46, the undernourished have an average deficit of
more than 300 kilocalories per person per day. By contrast, in only 3 out
of 19 countries in Asia do the undernourished suffer from average food deficits
this high, according to SOFI.
The report introduces the concept of grouping the countries by degree of
food deprivation. To get the most accurate picture possible of how hungry
people are, FAO has combined the estimates of both prevalence and depth of
hunger into five deprivation groups. The most deprived group includes 23
countries facing the most pressing and difficult problems in feeding their
people. In addition to 18 African countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Haiti,
Mongolia and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea are in this group.
"Lack of cash income is one of the most important factors hindering both
urban and rural people from obtaining the diverse foods needed for an adequate
diet. Even when poor rural families are helped to produce a greater variety
of foods on their household plots, they will often sell these items rather
than consume them because of their high market value."
To defeat hunger, the FAO report emphasizes that investments will have to
be made not only in productivity but also in people. Investing in people
will need to come in the form of education, clean water and sanitation, health
and social services and, in some cases, direct food and nutrition support.
Reducing hunger has not only a humanitarian justification, but also a strong
economic rationale, as recent FAO sponsored research shows. "The economic
cost of hunger and malnutrition, as reflected in lost productivity, illness
and death, is extremely high," the report emphasizes. For example, per capita
GDP in sub-Saharan Africa could have reached levels of US$1 000 to US$3 500
by 1990 if undernourishment had been absent. Instead the region's average
GDP per capita in 1990 was just US$800.
According to FAO, four factors together offer possible solutions to hunger:
- stable political conditions and institutions that build peace and offer
a voice to all stakeholders; - increased investments for sustainable economic
growth and poverty reduction; - social safety nets for the vulnerable groups;
- agricultural research targeted towards improving agricultural commodity
According to the report, appropriately focused agricultural research helped
reduce undernourishment substantially in a number of countries. It cites
Ghana where farmers were able to exploit new market opportunities for cassava
thanks to an aggressive cassava research and market promotion programme based
on high-yielding varieties which had to be adapted to local climatic and
soil conditions. Between 1990 and 1998, annual consumption of cassava in
Ghana increased from 126 kg to 232 kg per capita.
Another success story is reported in Nigeria where the big jump in cassava
production occurred between 1983 and 1992, when per capita consumption doubled
- from 63 kg to 129 kg annually.
In Asia, Thailand's successful fight against food insecurity is described
by the FAO report as a model for long term community based action programmes.
In this country, the incidence of poverty and malnutrition fell dramatically
in the last two decades thanks to a poverty alleviation strategy focused
on reducing malnutrition and supporting sustainable rural development. As
a result, the percentage of people living in poverty fell from 32.6 percent
in 1988 to 11.4 percent in 1996 and severe malnutrition amongst young children
A section of the report is dedicated to fisher folks in Benin as an example
of vulnerable group profiling, which is a means of identifying who in a given
population is hungry, why and, by implication, what can be done about it.
"Determining the vulnerable groups in a country is a tool to help decision-makers
direct interventions to people most vulnerable to food insecurity."
"Women are often more vulnerable than men to malnutrition because of their
different physiological requirements", the FAO report indicates. "In most
cases, a woman requires a higher intake of vitamins and minerals in proportion
to total dietary energy intake than a man. When women are pregnant or lactating
their foods need to be even richer in energy and nutrients." Specific nutritional
needs of all members of the households should be taken into account because
many infant and young-child deaths in developing countries are attributable
to the poor nutritional status of their mothers, the report adds.
Commenting on the way ahead, SOFI 2000 stresses the need to create the conditions
that enable people to secure their right to adequate food. "The way forward
will be long and challenging. However, progress can be achieved if individual
countries and the international community act conscientiously on the commitments
they made at the World Food Summit."
An opportunity not to be lost is the recent initiative to strengthen debt
relief taken by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other
donors, which will release resources for development in many heavily indebted
poor countries. "Debt relief can spur progress towards reducing hunger, provided
the resources freed up are used, not only to feed the hungry now, but also
to put countries and communities onto a longer-term path of sustainable
development by investing in food security," the FAO report underlines.
FAO Report-State of Food Insecurity in the World
1. Before he left Rome for the Report's public release in Berlin and London,
Mr. Hartwig De Haen, FAO Assistant Director-General of the Economic and Social
Department had an interview with Liliane Kambirigi -FAO Radio Unit- Listen
to what he highlights as the major findings of the Report.
Duration: 3min 23sec
In RealAudio (Instant play, 419Kb)
In Mp3: (broadcast quality , 1,589 Kb to be downloaded)
2. The raison d'être of the Global Forum for Sustainable food and
Nutritional security is to follow up to one of the World Food Summit's objectives
to halve the number of malnourished by 2015.
- Mr. Stuart Clark is the Global Forum's focal point for North America. In
an interview with Liliane Kambirigi-FAO Radio Unit- he deplores the lack
In mp3 (1068Kb, broadcast quality):
In Realaudio (282Kb, Instant play):
3. Ms. Christina Andela is one of the Coordinators of the Coalition of African
Organizations for Food Security and Sustainable Development (COASAD), for
Central Africa, a region severely hit by civil strife. She told Liliane Kambirigi
-FAO Radio Unit- that food security cannot be achieved without a peaceful
In mp3 (687Kb, broadcast quality):
In Realaudio (182Kb, Instant play):
If you can't download, please call for a fee Eric Deleu (FAO Radio Unit)
* For further information, please contact FAO Media Relations Branch (tel.
0039.06.57053625) or UNIC, London (tel.: 020.76301981). A video news release
on one aspect of the SOFI report, the Cassava success story in Ghana, is
available for television journalists (contact: John Riddle, FAO/UNIC London
or cellular 0039.348.2341145).