On or around October 31, 2011, the global population is predicted to reach 7 billion. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations – there are over 1 billion people in the world today who do not get enough food to eat. That’s one in 7 people on Earth don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Hunger in the 21st century means the same thing it has always meant: not getting enough food to be healthy and lead an active life.
Where are these people? We in the developing world rarely see people who are hungry, although the FAO and other sources say hunger also exists in developed countries like the United States.
Most of the world’s hungry people live in developing nations. In absolute terms, Asia and the Pacific have the largest numbers of hungry people. In terms of percentages, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hungry, with more than one in three people being undernourished, according to the FAO.
The FAO says that the world currently produces enough food for everybody. Overall, around the world in recent decades, a green revolution has taken place. It has allowed Earth’s food supply to keep pace with our world’s growing population, for the most part. So why are there still hungry people? According to the FAO, lack of access to food is the problem. High domestic food prices, lower incomes and, in 2011, increasing unemployment due to the global economic situation means many people cannot afford to buy the food they need.
Hunger experts use the terms “food secure” or “food insecure” to speak of hungry people, and nations with many who are hungry. These experts agree that poverty is a root cause of food insecurity. Food insecure nations tends to have large numbers of very poor people. Natural disasters, war and other conflicts, poor agricultural infrastructure and over-exploitation of the environment also play a role.
Meanwhile, a food secure country can produce, store or import the food it needs and distribute it equitably. The FAO lists four key factors for achieving food security in a given country:
1. There must be enough food to ensure that each person’s daily energy and nutrient needs can be met.
2. Even in a country with adequate food supplies, people must have access to that food.
3. The food supply must be stable. Factors causing instability of food supplies include droughts, floods, sharp price increases or seasonal unemployment.
4. Cultural acceptability – use of certain foods, food combinations or handling methods can be preempted by religious or cultural taboos.
More from the FAO: How can hunger be reduced?
Read about hunger in the world today from the FAO’s 2009 publication The State of Food Insecurity in the World.
The FAO has a new website about hunger.
There’s also a huge repository of documents about the issue of global food and global hunger here.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the chart at least shows that “2009 was a devastating year for the world’s hungry, marking a significant worsening of an already disappointing trend in global food security since 1996. The global economic slowdown, following on the heels of the food crisis in 2006–08, has deprived an additional 100 million people of access to adequate food. There have been marked increases in hunger in all of the worlds major regions, and more than one billion people are now estimated to be undernourished.”