The latest edition of the annual UN hunger report The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 – SOFI was published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in May 2015. According to the report, the number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 795 million – 216 million fewer than in 1990-92 – or around one person out of every nine.
In the developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment - which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life – has declined to 12.9 percent of the population, down from 23.3 percent a quarter of a century ago reports SOFI 2015.
A majority – 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015.
Progress in hunger reduction in East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean
Large reductions in hunger were achieved in East Asia and very fast progress was posted in Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast and Central Asia, as well as some parts of Africa, showing that inclusive economic growth, agricultural investments and social protection, along with political stability makes the elimination of hunger possible. Above all, the political will to make hunger eradication a paramount development objective has fostered progress.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world – at 23.2 percent, or almost one in every four people. However, African nations that invested more in improving agricultural productivity and basic infrastructure also achieved their MDG hunger target, notably in West Africa.
The proportion of hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean has dropped from 14.7 percent to 5.5 percent since 1990, while the share of underweight children (below 5 years of age) also declined sharply. A strong commitment to hunger reduction was translated into substantial social protection programmes which, coupled with strong economic growth, drove continent-wide progress.
Diverse trends in different parts of Asia
Diverse trends were observed in different parts of Asia. Countries in Eastern and Southeast Asia have achieved steady and rapid reduction in both malnourishment indicators, buoyed by investment in water and sanitation infrastructure as well as favourable economic prospects.
In Southern Asia, the prevalence of undernourishment has declined modestly, to 15.7 percent from 23.9 percent, but much greater progress was made in reducing underweight among young children.
Severe food insecurity is close to being eradicated in North Africa, with the prevalence of undernourishment below 5 percent, although dietary quality is of growing concern in the region, where there is a rising prevalence of overweight and obesity.
In West Asia, where hygiene conditions are generally advanced and child underweight rates are low, the incidence of hunger has risen due to war, civil strife and consequent large migrant and refugee populations in some countries.
Lessons from the MDGs experience
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to improve food security, the SOFI report outlines several factors that played a critical role in achieving the hunger target. Important factors are: improved agricultural productivity, economic growth and the expansion of social protection.
More information: State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 Report