Today there are 216 million fewer undernourished people than there was in 1990-92. To put that number in perspective, consider that across the globe there are currently 247 countries and dependent territories. If you ranked them by the number of people in each, the last 144 countries—Serbia to Pitcairn Islands—would have a combined population of 216 million.
According to the United Nations’ annual hunger report, since 1990-92 the number of undernourished people has decreased from nearly a billion to about 795 million. (Undernourishment means that a person is not able to acquire enough food to meet the daily minimum dietary energy requirements, over a period of one year.)
The decline is more pronounced in developing regions, the report notes, despite significant population growth. In recent years, progress has been hindered by slower and less inclusive economic growth as well as political instability in some developing regions, such as Central Africa and western Asia.
Here are some other highlights from the report:
• More than half the countries monitored (72 of 129 developing countries) have reached the target of cutting in half, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. Most of those countries enjoyed stable political conditions and economic growth, often accompanied by social protection policies targeted at vulnerable population groups.
• For the developing regions as a whole, the prevalence of undernourishment and the proportion of underweight children under 5 years of age have both declined. In some regions, including western Africa, south-eastern Asia and South America, undernourishment declined faster than the rate for child underweight, suggesting room for improving the quality of diets, hygiene conditions and access to clean water, particularly for poorer population groups.
• Economic growth is a key success factor for reducing undernourishment, but it has to be inclusive and provide opportunities for improving the livelihoods of the poor. Enhancing the productivity and incomes of smallholder family farmers is key to progress.
• In many countries that have failed to reach the international hunger targets, natural and human-induced disasters or political instability have resulted in protracted crises with increased vulnerability and food insecurity of large parts of the population. In such contexts, measures to protect vulnerable population groups and improve livelihoods have been difficult to implement or ineffective.