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Hunger

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a food shortage in the world?

There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life. The problem is that access to food is often difficult. Obviously, we can’t just distribute the world’s global food production equally between individuals – but examining and implementing ways to ensure access to food, and to increase and sustain agricultural production are essential if hunger is to be beaten. This is what the United Nations food agencies, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP), and many other international actors, are engaged in doing.

Hunger defined: The sensation of hunger, a lack of food in your stomach, is universal. But there are different manifestations of hunger which are each measured in different ways:

What are the effects of malnutrition?

Malnutrition covers a range of problems, such as being dangerously thin, being too short for one's age, being deficient in vitamins and minerals (such as lacking iron which makes you anaemic), or even being too fat (obese). It is measured using the following indicators:

Are micronutrients important? 

Children having their class in a straw hut without desks as there are not enough class rooms in an elementary school in Niger.

Children having their class in a straw hut without desks as there are not enough class rooms in an elementary school in Niger.

Micronutrient, or vitamin and mineral deficiencies, are very important afflicting nearly two billion people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, deficiencies of iron, vitamin A, and zinc rank among the top ten leading causes of death through disease in developing countries.

So just who are the hungry?

Despite the impression you often get from the media, emergencies account for less than eight percent of hunger's victims. Few people realise that there are close to one billion hungry people in the world who don't make the headlines -- more than the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union. They are of all ages, from babies whose mothers cannot produce enough milk to the elderly with no relatives to care for them. They are the unemployed inhabitants of urban slums, the landless farmers tilling other people's fields, the orphans of AIDS and the sick, who need special or increased food intake to survive.

Above all, children, women and rural communities are on the frontlines of hunger.

Where are the hungry? 

The percentage of hungry people is highest in east, central and southern Africa. Around three-quarters of undernourished people live in low-income rural areas of developing countries, principally in higher-risk farming areas. However, the share of the hungry in urban areas is rising.

However, of the total number of the 925 million chronically hungry people, over half are in Asia and the Pacific and about a quarter are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Are the numbers going down? 

Whereas good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade, FAO said. The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the global economic downturn that started in 2008. 

Today, one in seven people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide -- greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.