UN: Global hunger declines for first time in 15 years

The number of undernourished people around the world has declined by nearly 10% in the last year, the first time a drop in famine has been recorded since 1995, the UN food agency said on Tuesday.

A total of 925-million people are undernourished in 2010 compared with 1,02-billion last year, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a hunger report, revealing a drop of 9,6%.

However, the FAO insisted that “the number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high”.

The decline, the first in 15 years, “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”.

‘Deeper structural problem’
However, “the fact that nearly a billion people remain hungry, even after the recent food and financial crises have largely passed, indicates a deeper structural problem”.

The UN agency urged governments to “encourage increased investment in agriculture, expand safety nets and social assistance programmes, and enhance income-generating activities for the rural and urban poor”.

Analysis of hunger during financial crisis and recovery also brought to the fore “the insufficient resilience to economic shocks of many poor countries and households”, the FAO warned.

“Lack of appropriate mechanisms to deal with the shocks or to protect the most vulnerable populations from the effects result in large swings in hunger following crises.”

When the crisis is over there should be no relaxation in the fight against famine, the FAO urged.

“Vulnerable households may deal with shocks by selling assets, which are very difficult to rebuild, by reducing food consumption in terms of quantity and variety, and by cutting down on health and education expenditures”.

These coping mechanisms “all have long-term negative effects on the quality of life and livelihoods”, the FAO said.—AFP

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