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Making hunger disappear

Oct 15, 2009

FAO's annual hunger report The State of Food Insecurity shows how the economic crisis has led to the rise in the number of hungry people in the world. The document highlights the urgent need for investment in agriculture and calls for more international commitment to end the food insecurity.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2009

Publisher: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 2009

The sharp spike in hunger triggered by the global economic crisis has hit the poorest people in developing countries hardest, revealing a fragile world food system in urgent need of reform, according to a report released today by FAO and the World Food Programme (WFP).

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The combination of food and economic crises has pushed the number of hungry people worldwide to historic levels — more than one billion people are undernourished.

Nearly all the world's undernourished live in developing countries.

In Asia and the Pacific, an estimated 642 million people are suffering from chronic hunger; in Sub-Saharan Africa 265 million; in Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million; in the Near East and North Africa 42 million; and in developed countries 15 million, according to the report.

Decade-long trend

Even before the recent crises, the number of undernourished people in the world had been increasing slowly but steadily for the past decade, the report says.

Between 1995-97 and 2004-06, the number of hungry people increased in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. Gains in hunger reduction were later reversed in this region as well, as a result of the food and economic crises.

The document highlights how stronger political will to eradicate hunger, investing in agriculture in developing countries is key to overcome hunger and poverty along with ensuring overall economic growth and peace and stability in the world.

Another blow for poor households

The report mentions several factors that has led to the devastating impact on the poor households in developing countries.

First, the crisis is affecting large parts of the world simultaneously, reducing the scope for traditional coping mechanisms such as currency devaluation, borrowing or increased use of official development assistance or migrant remittances.

Second, the economic crisis comes on top of a food crisis that has already strained the coping strategies of the poor, hitting those most vulnerable to food insecurity when they are down. Faced with high domestic food prices, reduced incomes and employment and having already sold off assets, reduced food consumption and cut spending on essential items such as health care and education, these families risk falling deeper into destitution and the hunger-poverty trap.

In for a penny, in for a pounding

The third factor that differentiates this crisis from those of the past is that developing countries have become more integrated, both financially and commercially, into the world economy than they were 20 years ago, making them more vulnerable to changes in international markets.

Many countries have experienced across-the-board drops in their trade and financial inflows, and have seen their export earnings, foreign investment, development aid and remittances falling. This not only reduces employment opportunities, but also reduces the money available to governments for programmes promoting growth and supporting those in need.

The report includes case studies compiled by WFP in five countries — Armenia, Bangladesh, Ghana, Nicaragua and Zambia — showing how households are affected by the fall in remittances and other impacts of the economic downturn and how governments are responding to the crisis by investing in agriculture and infrastructure and expanding safety nets.

FAO and WFP continue to advocate a twin-track approach to address both the short-term acute hunger spurred by sudden food shortages and the longer-term chronic hunger that is symptomatic of extreme poverty as a way for durable solutions.

Source : FAO
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