Number of hungry people worldwide nears 1 billion mark, UN agency reports

9 December 2008 – With 40 million people being pushed into hunger this year mostly due to soaring food prices, the number of undernourished people worldwide is approaching the 1 billion mark, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today.

The total number of hungry people has risen to 963 million this year, up from 923 million last year, and FAO cautioned in the latest edition of its global hunger report that this number could rise further as a result of the ongoing financial and economic crisis.

“For millions of people in developing countries, eating the minimum amount of food every day to live an active and healthy life is a distant dream,” said Hafez Ghanem, FAO Assistant-Director General. “The structural problems of hunger, like the lack of access to land, credit and employment, combined with high food prices, remain a dire reality.”

He noted that while food prices have fallen since earlier this year, the food crisis persists in many countries.

Although the price of major cereals has dropped by more than 50 per cent from their 2008 highs, they still remain high compared to previous years, the report, entitled “The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2008,” said.

FAO’s Food Price Index is still nearly 30 per cent higher as of October 2008 than it was two years before.

Meanwhile, the prices of seeds, fertilizers and other inputs have more than doubled since 2006, leaving poor farmers unable to produce food.

“If lower prices and the credit crunch associated with the economic crisis force farmers to plant less food, another round of dramatic food prices could be unleashed next year,” Mr. Ghanem said, calling for a funding boost of at least $30 billion annually to help stave off more hunger and help farmers in developing countries.

The new report said that the vast majority of the world’s hungry – over 900 million – live in developing nations, with over two-thirds in seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.

Mr. Ghanem said that the food crisis has “mainly affected the poorest, landless and households run by women,” adding that that an “enormous and resolute global effort” is necessary to reach the target of cutting the number of hungry people in the world down to 500 million by 2015.


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