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World made no headway to halve number of hungry: UN

Reuters | October 30, 2006
By Robin Pomeroy

ROME - Ten years after political leaders pledged to halve the number of underfed people in the world, no progress has been made and the number of hungry people is rising again, a United Nations report said on Monday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which hosted a 1996 World Food Summit where nations set the target, said there were still 854 million underfed people, and that one in three people in sub-Saharan Africa lived in chronic hunger.

"I am deeply sorry to report that the situation remains intolerable and unacceptable, and more so because 10 years have passed," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told a news conference where he presented the report.

At the summit, world leaders pledged to halve the number of underfed people between 1990 and 2015. At the halfway point, the latest figures showed a mere 3 million reduction, not enough to be statistically relevant, FAO said.

Diouf said if the rate of decline seen since 1990 continued, the food summit target would not be achieved before 2150. And the most recent trend pointed to a rise in the number of hungry, he said.

"Far from decreasing, the number of hungry people in the world is currently increasing - at the rate of 4 million a year," he said.

In the first half of the 1990s the number of hungry people dropped globally by 26 million, but rose again in the second half. The negligible cut in the number of hungry people in the developing world in the 1990s compared with cuts of 37 million in the 1970s and 100 million in the 1980s.


"It is almost natural to dismiss the period since the WFS (World Food Summit) as a 'lost decade'. To do so, however, would be a mistake," Diouf said.

Although the absolute number of hungry people has not fallen, they represent a declining proportion of the growing global population, and the world should meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goal of halving the percentage of hungry people in the total population by 2015, the report forecast.

By 2015, 10.1 percent of the developing world's population will be hungry, compared with 20.3 percent in 1990-92.

But stark differences in development in various regions mean the proportion of the populations of Africa and the Near East who go hungry will not be cut at the same rate and are set to miss the Millennium Development Goal.

By 2015, sub-Saharan Africa will contain 30 percent of the world's hungry, up from 20 percent in 1990, the FAO said.

The report highlighted China as a success story as it reduced its hungry population to 150 million from 194 million in 1990.

Despite the lack of progress so far toward the food summit goal, the FAO said the target could still be met by improving agriculture in the developing world.

"Is the 2015 WFS target still attainable? The answer should be a resounding 'yes'," Diouf said.

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