While a staggering number of people around the world still face extreme levels of hunger, the overall situation isn't as severe as it was a quarter century ago. According to a new report from the United Nation’s Food & Agriculture Organization, the world's hungry now stands at 795 million people, a reduction of more than 216 million people from 1990-1992 numbers.
"Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future. Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history," said World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
According to the U.N.'s "State of Food Insecurity in the World for 2015," the overall reduction in hunger around the world can be credited to the ascent of China, Vietnam, Brazil and Thailand — regions where large populations previously faced poor access to adequate food supplies. Despite these gains, the study recognizes that dietary quality is still a serious concern, with regions like southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa experiencing "hidden hunger" from iron and other vitamin deficiencies.
"If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world's poorest and hungriest people live," said Kanayo F. Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. "We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. We must invest in rural areas so that our nations can have balanced growth and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfill their potential."
While a drop off in hunger in certain areas of the world is worthy of celebration, there are regions that have become worse. In Africa, 24 countries are currently battling food crises, twice as many as in 1990. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, an estimate one in four people — or 23.2 percent of the population — is facing malnourishment. The conditions are also dire in the young country of South Sudan, where as many as 40 percent of the population will face acute hunger over the next three months.
"Millions of people in South Sudan are trapped by a terrible mix of brutal conflict, rising hunger and a deepening economic crisis," said Joyce Luma, the U.N.'s World Food Hunger representative and country director in South Sudan. "A staggering number of people are going hungry. This analysis is a chilling reminder to the world that South Sudan cannot be forgotten."
The FAO cites gains in agriculture productivity, economic development, and social protections as keys to further eradicating worldwide hunger.
"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime," FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva told reporters. "We must be the zero hunger generation."
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