There are now about 870 million hungry people in the world, according to the 2012 State of Food Insecurity in the World. Does this mean there are fewer hungry people today compared with previous years?
Yes and no. The present figures cannot be compared with those from previous years, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. This is because the organization used a revised set of data and methodology for the latest estimates. But this means progress was more apparent than previously estimated. In 2009, FAO reported more than 1 billion people were hungry around the world.
FAO said the results “imply” that the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of undernourished people in the developing world “is within reach.” A closer look at the data, however, reveals how unbalanced the case is.
South Asia is still home to most number of undernourished people in the world. But while there were 327 million people who were reportedly undernourished in 1992, there are now just 304 million hungry people in the region. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, the number of undernourished people shot up from 170 million in 1992 to 234 million today.
The increase could be attributed to the revised methodology, where adjustments were made in population size and the inclusion of new height surveys to determine people’s caloric needs. FAO underscored the need for updated data, improvements in the methodology and a “wider suite of indicators” to “fully capture these effects.”
Economic growth is necessary to reduce global hunger and malnutrition, but the report said “growth alone is unlikely to make a significant impact on hunger reduction.” It should reach the poor through “increased employment and other income-earning opportunities,” and must be “nutrition-sensitive.” Government action, good governance and social protection are equally important.
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