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U.N. Report: Number Of Hungry People Worldwide Drops, But 925 Million Still Malnourished

U.N. officials on Tuesday said that the number of hungry people worldwide dropped for the first time in 15 years, but warned that the number is still too large, the New York Times reports (MacFarquhar, 9/14).

“A total of 925 million people are undernourished in 2010 compared with 1.023 billion last year, the [U.N.] Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a hunger report [.pdf], revealing a drop of 9.6 percent,” Agence France-Presse writes (9/14). But the hunger number is still “shockingly high,” Josette Sheeran, the executive director of the World Food Program, told a news conference in Rome, the New York Times reports (9/14). The FAO said, “The fact that nearly a billion people remain hungry even after the recent food and financial crises have largely passed indicates a deeper structural problem,” Reuters reports. “Governments should encourage increased investment in agriculture, expand safety nets and social assistance programmes, and enhance income-generating activities for the rural and urban poor,” according to the agency (Hornby, 9/14). 

The new hunger figure is part of the annual report, “The State of Food Insecurity in the World,” which is to be jointly published by FAO and the World Food Program in October, according to an FAO press release. “The figure was released in advance of the September 20-22 Summit meeting in New York called to speed progress towards achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the first of which is to end poverty and hunger” (9/14). The new data suggest that the first MDG of “reducing the number of poor and hungry people in the world by half, will be virtually impossible to meet, Jacques Diouf, the director general of the [FAO], told the news conference,” according to the New York Times (9/14).

This year, the biggest decline in hunger will take place in Asia and the Pacific region where the number of undernourished people is expected to decrease by 80 million to 578 million, according to FAO, Bloomberg writes. The data also show that the number of hungry people in sub-Saharan Africa will decline by 12 million to 239 million (Ruitenberg, 9/14).

“More favourable economic conditions in 2009, combined with the decline in international food prices after the historic spikes of 2008 are the main factors driving the significant downward trend,” the Globe and Mail reports (Leeder/Reguly, 9/14). “The FAO’s estimate doesn’t take into account the resurgence in grain prices since early July,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which also notes that “FAO officials and many economists doubt that the rise in grain prices this summer is enough to trigger another food crisis of the sort seen two years ago” (Kilman, 9/14). FAO also “said the figures released Tuesday did not include the millions of hungry people in three ’emergency’ areas – Pakistan, Haiti and the Sahel in Africa,” the Globe and Mail writes (9/14).

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