Africa / Asia / Food Security / Insurance / Latin America / Nutrition / Women

Numbers of hungry fall for first time in 15 years, but are higher than before the food crisis of 2008

Young undernourished girl with baby in Niger

Kadidja Kimba pounds millet whilst caring for Khadi Boubacar in Katanga Village, near Fakara, Niger (credit: ILRI/Mann).

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has made FAO’s State of Food Security available.

The report says the number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high at close to one billion in 2010 despite an expected decline—the first in 15 years. This decline is largely attributable to a more favourable economic environment in 2010—particularly in developing countries—and the fall in both international and domestic food prices since 2008.

FAO estimates that a total of 925 million people are undernourished in 2010 compared with 1.023 billion in 2009. Most of the decrease was in Asia, with 80 million fewer hungry, but progress was also made in sub-Saharan Africa, where 12 million fewer people are going hungry. However, the number of hungry people is higher in 2010 than before the food and economic crises of 2008–09.

The following are among the other key messages of this new report.

The number and the proportion of undernourished people have declined, but they remain unacceptably high.
Undernourishment remains higher than before the food and economic crises, making it ever more difficult to achieve international hunger targets.

Countries in protracted crisis require special attention.
Countries in long-lasting or recurring crises have little capacity to respond to hunger problems, which exacerbates their food insecurity.

Improving food security in areas of protracted crises requires promoting people’s livelihoods over the longer term.
Appropriate responses must also recognize the different impacts of protracted crises on men and women.

Supporting local institutions is key to addressing protracted crises.
Local institutions, which are often ignored by external actors, can help address food security problems in protracted crises.

Agriculture and the rural economy—key to supporting livelihoods in regions of protracted crises—are underfunded.
While agriculture accounts for a third of national income in countries in protracted crisis, the sector receives only 4 per cent of humanitarian aid and 3 per cent of development aid.

Aid flows should be modified both to serve immediate needs and to address the structural causes of protracted crises.
Important areas of intervention (including social protection and risk reduction) are often underfunded.

Food assistance helps build the basis for long-term food security, particularly in countries in protracted crisis.
Use of a varied set of food assistance tools, complemented by innovations in how food is procured, will serve as a strong basis for food security in the longer term.

Broad social protection measures help countries cope with protracted crises and lay the foundation for long-term recovery.
Key interventions include safety nets; insurance where appropriate; and health, education and other services.

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