For the first time, the number of chronically hungry people worldwide is greater than 1 billion, according to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statement, the Financial Times reports (Blas, Financial Times, 6/19).
The total number of hungry people is estimated to have reached 1.02 billion - an increase of 11 percent from last year's 915 million, according to the agency, which based its estimate on analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (Rizzo, AP/Google.com, 6/20).
"The new U.N. assessment signals that the food and economic crisis of the last two years have reversed the past quarter-century's slow but constant decline in the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the world's population," the Financial Times writes (Financial Times, 6/19). Although food prices are lower than "their mid-2008 highs," they are still "stubbornly high" in some domestic markets, according to the FAO. Jacques Diouf, FAO's director-general, said regions across the globe "have been affected by the rise of food insecurity" and that "[n]o part of the world is immune."
AP/Google.com reports that "Asia and the Pacific has the largest number of hungry people - 642 million, up 10.5 percent from last year. Sub-Saharan Africa registers 265 million undernourished, an 11.8 percent increase. Even in the developed world, undernourishment is a growing concern, with 15 million in all and a 15.4 percent increase, the sharpest rise around the world, FAO said" (AP/Google.com, 6/20).
Economic Crisis Perpetuated Hunger
Diouf said, "Worsening hunger in the last three years largely stems from economic shocks" and that "[n]either drought, nor floods or disastrous harvests can be held to blame this time" (Xinhuanet, 6/22). He said the world's food system is "fragile and vulnerable" and that the "situation goes beyond traditional humanitarian dimensions. It calls for a new world food order."
Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Program, said, "Unless world leaders respond by ensuring all people access to adequate and affordable nutrition, we are in danger of losing a generation to malnutrition and despair." Sheeran said hunger can help destabilize countries. "Without food, people have only three options: they riot, they migrate or they die. None of these are acceptable options," she said (DeCapua, VOA News, 6/19).
According to AP/Google.com, "The dire figures make it highly unlikely that a goal set by the wealthiest nations to cut hunger in the world in half by 2015 will be met, though officials vow to press world leaders at the Group of Eight summit gathering in Italy next month" (AP/Google.com, 6/20).
This article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.