New report shows little progress has been made in reaching World Food Summit target



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In a time of unprecedented plenty, 826 million people still do not have enough to eat. Far more disturbing is the fact that little progress is being made in bringing about significant reductions in the number of the world's hungry. This is the key finding contained in the latest edition of FAO's The state of food insecurity in the world (SOFI 2000). Released annually on World Food Day, SOFI monitors the progress made in reaching World Food Summit goals. Leaders at the 1996 Summit pledged to cut the number of undernourished to 400 million by 2015. SOFI 2000 indicates that unless more determined efforts are made to speed up progress, the goal will not be reached until 2030.

In the foreword to the report, FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf notes that the disappointing figures highlight the fact that, "what we need to do is adopt more urgent, targeted measures, quickly."

A reduction of at least 20 million every year between now and 2015 is needed to reach the Summit's target. During the 1990s, the rate of decline in the number of hungry people was clearly inadequate - slightly less than 8 million per year.

Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General of FAO's Economic and Social Department, says SOFI 2000 looks at more than overall statistics on undernutrition - it pinpoints specific groups most vulnerable to hunger. "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," says de Haen.

SOFI 2000 provides indicators of the varying depths of hunger around the world, including for the first time countries in transition. The depth of hunger, or food deficit, is measured by comparing the average amount of dietary energy (kilocalories) 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. The greater the food deficit, the greater the susceptibility to nutrition-related health risks.

On average, the 826 million chronically hungry people worldwide need to consume between 100 and 400 more kilocalories per day. In some countries, the depth of hunger is much higher. For example, in Somalia the food deficit for the undernourished reaches 490 kilocalories and in Afghanistan it stands at 480.

Strictly speaking, there are more chronically hungry people in Asia than in any other region, but the depth of hunger is greatest in sub-Saharan Africa. In 19 out of 46 sub-Saharan countries assessed in the report, the undernourished have an average food deficit of more than 300 kilocalories per person per day. In Asia and the Pacific, in only 3 out of 19 countries assessed, do the undernourished have average food deficits this high.
The Deepest Hunger

These are the 23 countries where the undernourished - not the population as a whole- have the greatest dietary energy deficit. The deficit is expressed in kilocalories per person per day. The higher the number, the deeper the hunger.














Congo, Democratic Republic


Sierra Leone










Korea DPR














Central African Republic








SOFI 2000 stresses that policy-makers also need to take into account the different nutritional needs of individual family members. A greater awareness of the specific dietary requirements of women is of particular importance, as the death of many infants and young children in developing countries is directly attributable to the poor nutritional status of their mothers.

In his foreword, Dr Diouf appeals to the international community to focus on four essential measures that together offer possible solutions to world hunger:

  • "We must address conflict, the cause of the deepest hunger in most of the poorest countries of the world.
  • "We must make the investments needed to build foundations for long-term sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
  • "Countries and their development partners must target the people who are suffering the deepest hunger.
  • "We must orient agricultural research towards improvement of agricultural commodity production."

SOFI 2000 also reports some good news. It cites examples from Ghana, Nigeria and Thailand, where government policies have succeeded in bringing about rapid improvements in national nutrition standards; and recent policy initiatives taken by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other donors to strengthen debt relief for 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," states the report.

16 October 2000

Go to the FAO Focus on SOFI 2000

The Focus contains information on the report's findings and methodology, as well as audioclips from a variety of development experts, including Hartwig de Haen, Assistant Director-General of FAO's Economic and Social Department, who comments on the highlights of this year's edition.

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