2 October 2013

According to FAO, the number of undernourished people has decreased by 24 million in one year

According to the 2013 report on the State of Food Insecurity in the World just published by FAO, IFAD and WFP, the number of chronically hungry people decreased to 842 millions for the period 2011-2013. This means that there were 24 million people less in 2011-2013 who suffered from chronic hunger than in 2010-2012, and that there has been a decreased by 2.8% of the number of hungry in one year.

It must be reminded here that the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG1) on poverty and hunger envisaged a decrease by half of the proportion of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015. This meant that this proportion should decrease to little below 12% of the total world population. This goal seems now almost achievable as the proportion  decreased by 1.3 points in three years, and that FAO estimates this figure to be 14.3% for the period 2011-2013. A projection of this proportion according to the trend would lead to a proportion of around 13% in 2015.

However, if one considers absolute numbers and the goal fixed at the first World Food Summit in 1996 of reducing by half the number of undernourished people, success seems still far off. To achieve the goal fixed in 1996, the figure would have to fall to around 500 million people. It is clear that such a figure could not be reached without implementing serious efforts that would entail actions of a nature and magnitude that are not comparable to what is currently being done in the world. In their book «How to End Hunger inTimes of Crises» Trueba and MacMillan give a hint on the size of the effort required. It would also require to put leaders of countries where hunger persists (i.e. almost all countries, including rich countries) in front of their responsibilities and oblige them to take measures to ensure adequate food to their population. This would just mean being in conformity with one of the most fundamental human rights, namely the right to food, and condemn the world famicide that continues in a quasi general indifference and causes the death of several million people every year, including a majority of children.

Unfortunately, if one projects the reduction of the number of hungry following the trend of recent FAO estimates, the figure obtained for 2013 would still be more than 750 million people, just around 50% above the objective fixed in 1996.

One cannot feel satisfied with the meagre progress made during these last years, particularly if one considers the perspective of hunger eradication, a goal officially adopted by the International Community last December [read], and if one realises that the world has the capacity today to feed its each and everyone of its more than 7 billion people, as the food available today is more than what is needed. [read]

This site has already had the opportunity to show the limits of FAO estimates on hunger. They are probably below reality and show a reverse trend from what is really occurring [read]. Luckily, FAO will be testing a new method to estimate the number of hungry [read] and results are eagerly expected. In the report of this year, it is satisfying to see that FAO feels the need to accompany its estimates with a set of indicators that are helpful to qualify better the nature of hunger in the world by and which takes into account the various dimensions of food security as well as shocks that may affect it.

With the view to increase accountability of leaders, it would also be useful to publish indicators measuring the level of actual commitment of governments in their fight against hunger. This may be a politically sensitive issue for an intergovernmental organisation like FAO, but is seems indispensable to increase the pressure that should be put on those leaders in the world who do not do much to avoid that their people die from hunger. The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) developed by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) based in Brighton, UK, appears to be a good starting point to measure government action and demonstrate that inaction is unfortunately much too frequent.


Last update:    October 2013

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