This weekend many churches will observe their annual World Hunger Sunday, and next week (October 16) is World Food Day, a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year‐around action to alleviate hunger. Here are nine things you need to know about one of the world’s most persistent, but solvable, global problems.
1. World hunger refers to the want or scarcity of food in a country, aggregated to the world level. The related technical terms (e.g., those used in medicine) are malnutrition or undernutrition, both of which indicate a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.
2. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 1 in 8 people in the world do not get enough food to lead an active and healthy life. Over 800 million worldwide—equal to the population of the U.S. and the 28 member states of the European Union—are hungry.
3. Asia has the largest share of the world’s hungry people (some 552 million), but Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment with one in four Africans (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.
4. Hunger and malnutrition are the greatest threats to global health—more so than even AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.
5. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year—five million deaths.
6. Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%).
7. One in four of the world’s children are stunted (below the fifth percentile of the reference population in height for age). In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three. 80 percent of the world’s stunted children live in just 20 countries.
8. The world currently produces enough food for everyone on the planet to have at least 2,720 calories per person per day (the equivalent of 13.5 cups of rice). The number of calories each person needs every day varies depending on age and activity level, but the recommended average is 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 calories for women.
9. According to the U.N. hunger report, economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared,” the report noted. Still, continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment, and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.