KARACHI: Some 842 million people, or roughly one in eight, suffered from chronic hunger in 2011-13, not getting enough food to lead active and healthy lives according to a report released by the UN food agencies.
The number is down from 868 million reported for the 2010-12 period, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2013), published every year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The vast majority of hungry people live in developing regions, while 15.7 million live in developed countries.
Continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.
In addition, in some countries, remittances from migrants are playing a role in reducing poverty, leading to better diets and progress in food security. They can also contribute to boosting productive investments by smallholder farmers
Despite the progress made worldwide, marked differences in hunger reduction persist. Sub-Saharan Africa has made only modest progress in recent years and remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with one in four people (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.
No recent progress is observed in Western Asia, while Southern Asia and Northern Africa witnessed slow progress. More substantial reductions in both the number of hungry and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of East Asia, Southeastern Asia, and in Latin America. Since 1990-92, the total number of undernourished in developing countries has fallen by 17 percent from 995.5 million to 826.6 million.
The report underlines that economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared,” the report noted.
The UN hunger report not only measures chronic hunger but presents a new suite of indicators for every country to capture the multiple dimensions of food insecurity. These indicators give a more nuanced picture of food insecurity in a country. In some countries, for example, the prevalence of hunger can be low, while at the same time under nutrition rates can be quite high, as exemplified by the proportion of children who are stunted (low height for age) or underweight, whose future health and development are put at risk. Such distinctions are important to improve the effectiveness of measures to reduce hunger and food insecurity in all its dimensions.