ROME, ITALY — About 805 million people in the world, or one in nine, suffer from hunger, according to a new United Nation’s report released on Sept. 16.
The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI 2014) confirmed a positive trend which has seen the number of hungry people decline globally by more than 100 million over the last decade and by more than 200 million since 1990-92. The report is published annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Program (WFP).
The overall trend in hunger reduction in developing countries means that the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the proportion of undernourished people by 2015 is within reach, "if appropriate and immediate efforts are stepped up," the report said. To date, 63 developing countries have reached the MDG target, and six more are on track to reach it by 2015.
"This is proof that we can win the war against hunger and should inspire countries to move forward, with the assistance of the international community as needed," the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP, José Graziano da Silva, Kanayo F. Nwanze and Ertharin Cousin, wrote in their foreword to the report.
They stressed that "accelerated, substantial and sustainable hunger reduction is possible with the requisite political commitment," and that "this has to be well informed by sound understanding of national challenges, relevant policy options, broad participation and lessons from other experiences."
SOFI 2014 noted how access to food has improved rapidly and significantly in countries that have experienced overall economic progress, notably in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia. Access to food has also improved in Southern Asia and Latin America, but mainly in countries with adequate safety nets and other forms of social protection including for the rural poor.
Despite significant progress overall, several regions and sub-regions continue to lag behind. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than one in four people remain chronically undernourished, while Asia, the world's most populous region, is also home to the majority of the hungry - 526 million people.
Latin America and the Caribbean have made the greatest overall strides in increasing food security. Meanwhile Oceania has accomplished only a modest improvement (1.7% decline) in the prevalence of undernourishment, which stood at 14% in 2012-14, and has actually seen the number of its hungry increase since 1990-92.
The agency heads noted that of the 63 countries which have reached the MDG target, 25 have also achieved the more ambitious World Food Summit (WFS) target of halving the number of undernourished people by 2015. However, the report indicated that time has run out on reaching the WFS target at the global level.
With the number of undernourished people remaining "unacceptably high", the agency heads stressed the need to renew the political commitment to tackle hunger and to transform it into concrete actions. In this context, the heads of FAO, IFAD and WFP welcomed the pledge at the 2014 African Union summit in June to end hunger on the continent by 2025.
"Food insecurity and malnutrition are complex problems that cannot be solved by one sector or stakeholder alone, but need to be tackled in a coordinated way," they added, calling on governments to work closely with the private sector and civil society.
The FAO, IFAD and WFP report specifies that hunger eradication requires establishing an enabling environment and an integrated approach. Such an approach includes public and private investments to increase agricultural productivity; access to land, services, technologies and markets; and measures to promote rural development and social protection for the most vulnerable, including strengthening their resilience to conflicts and natural disasters. The report also emphasizes the importance of specific nutrition programs, particularly to address micronutrient deficiencies of mothers and children under five.