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UN targets zero hunger in a generation as numbers fall

A japanese woman paints in Bangalore

Rome: The number of hungry people around the world has dropped below 800 million for the first time since the UN started counting, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said in an annual report today.

The Rome-based agency said there are 795 million people around the world suffering from hunger, 216 million fewer than in 1990-92, and that the world was on track to potentially eradicate the problem within the lifetime of today’s young people.

“The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime,” said FAO director general Jose Graziano da Silva.

“We must be the zero hunger generation.”

In the developing world, the prevalence of undernourishment has declined to 12.9 percent of the population from 23.3 percent a quarter of a century ago, the report found.

A total of 72 out of 129 countries monitored by the FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by this year and developing regions as a whole only missed the objective by a narrow margin.

The improvement in food security was all the more striking given the world’s population has grown by 1.9 billion since 1990, meaning many more mouths to feed, the FAO noted.

But while the situation had significantly improved over the past two decades, progress in recent years had been hampered by natural disasters, extreme weather events, political instability and civil conflicts, the report said.

The longevity of crises had also evolved over the years, morphing from “catastrophic, short-term, acute and highly visible events” to “protracted situations” fuelled by conflicts, climate change and financial turmoil.

In geographical terms, the gains on the global nutrition front were clouded by what the FAO called “darker shadows” in some regions.

In Africa, 24 countries currently face food crises, twice as many as in 1990. With nearly one in four people affected by undernourishment, sub-Saharan Africa was the region worst-affected by hunger, the report showed.

The expansion of social programmes, such as cash payments to poor families, food vouchers and school meal programmes, also “correlated strongly with progress in hunger reduction”, it found. But more than two-thirds of the world’s poor have no access to social support, the report said.

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