Mar 3, 2011, 1:00 PM
The sharp increase in hunger triggered by the global economic crisis has hard-hit the poorest people in developing countries, revealing a fragile world food system in urgent need of reform, according to a report released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).
The combination of food and economic crisis have pushed the number of hungry people worldwide to historic levels-more than 1 billion people are undernourished, according to FAD estimates.
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 FAO's annual hunger report.
The state of food insecurity, produced this year in collaboration with WFP, was published before the celebrations marking the World Food Day.
Even before the recent crises, the number of undernourished people in the world had been slowly increasing but steadily for the past decade, the report stated.
Good progress had been made in the 1980s and early 1990s in reducing chronic hunger, largely due to increased investment in agriculture following the global food crisis of the early 1970s. But between 1995-97 and 2004-06, as official development assistance (ODA) devoted to agriculture declined substantially, 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 rise in the number of hungry people during both periods of low prices and economic prosperity and the very sharp rises in periods of price hike and economic downturns show the weakness of the global food security governance system, FAQ said.
"World leaders have reacted forcefully to the financial and economic crisis and succeeded in mobilising billions of dollars in a short time period. The same strong action is needed now to combat hunger and poverty," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.
"The rising number of hungry people is intolerable. We have the economic and technical means to make hunger disappear, what is missing is a stronger political will to eradicate hunger forever. Investing in agriculture in developing countries is a key to healthy agricultural sector is essential not only to overcome hunger and poverty but also to ensure overall economic growth and peace and stability in the world."
"We applaud the new commitment to tackle food security, but we must act quickly. It is unacceptable in the 21st century that almost one in six of the world?s population is now going hungry," added Josette Sheeran, the Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme.
"At a time when there are more hungry people in the world than ever before there is less food aid then we have seen in living memory. We know what is needed to meet urgent hunger needs-we just need the resources and the international commitment to do the job."
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.