The 2013 UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, was launched recently, which summarises the number and location of people suffering chronic hunger. As an evaluation of progress made towards reaching the first Millennium Development Goal, the report caveats achievements made with the need for significant additional effort in ending world hunger.
The estimate for the number of chronically hungry people in the world for the period 2011-2013 is 842 million (12% of the global population), a reduction on the figure of 868 million for the 2010-2012 period. Since 1990-1992 the number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have fallen by 17%.
827 million people of the total number live in developing countries, where progress in tackling hunger has been mixed. Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest prevalence of undernourishment, has seen modest progress; Western Asia has seen no progress; and Southern Asia and North Africa show slow progress.
This year’s report has a focus on the multiple dimensions of food security, namely availability and access, utilization and stability, and undernourishment and undernutrition. The key to understanding food security is to measure and monitor all dimensions. For example, monitoring the inadequacy of dietary energy supply, an indication of undernourishment, fails to provide a clear picture undernutrition, which has a much higher prevalence and is better measured by childhood stunting. Monitoring both, along with other dimensions of food security, can give us much better understanding of the extent of hunger and identify priority areas for action.
The current rate of reduction in the number of hungry people is not sufficient to meet the 2015 MDG of halving hunger and much more needs to be done if we are to achieve this. Economic growth, often pursued with the goal of reducing hunger and poverty, can be beneficial but is not certain to reach the most vulnerable. Policies that specifically target agricultural productivity and smallholder farmers can be successful in reducing hunger even in poor regions.
The report concludes that a “long-term commitment to mainstreaming food security and nutrition in public policies and programmes is key to hunger reduction”.