The UN has warned that more international effort is needed to cope with global hunger.
The annual report published Wed 14th October by the UN’s food and agriculture organisation (FAO) and the world food programme (WFP) reveals that 1.02 billion people – representing a sixth of the world’s population – are undernourished worldwide in ‘09.
This means that global hunger affects more people than at any time since 1970. The FAO said that ‘The world summit target of reducing the number of undernourished people by half to no more than 420 million by 2015 will not be reached’ if current trends prevail.
According to the report, world hunger spread even before the global recession began but the economic crisis has made matters worse. Developing countries are faced with declining foreign investment and aid as well as decreasing export earnings.
‘As a result, poor households have been forced to eat fewer meals and less-nutritious food, cut back on health and education expenses and sell their assets’, explained the FAO.
It added: ‘The fact that hunger was increasing even before the food and economic crisis suggests that present solutions are insufficient and that a right-to-food approach has an important role to play in eradicating food insecurity.’
Another survey, the global hunger index published by the international food policy research unit (IFPRI), showed that African countries are among those hardest hit by the food crisis.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has witnessed the steepest rise in hunger since 1990 and is followed by Burundi, the Comoros and Zimbabwe. The trend in food insecurity is worsened by current food prices which remain ‘still relatively high.’
The FAO report said that lower incomes and increasing unemployment contribute to high domestic food prices and have far-reaching consequences. The UN predicts that ‘Infant mortality will increase, with girls being more affected than boys.’
The organisation is now urging governments to act on its bleak warning.
It said: ‘Despite the financial constraints faced by governments around the world, agricultural investment and safety nets remain key parts of an effective response to reduce food insecurity both now and in the future.’
The report comes ahead of world food day on Friday October 16th ‘09. The UN now hopes that both the upcoming event and its latest report will spark the needed international response to cope with the looming food crisis.