Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP peopleandplanet.net
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Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP
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food and agriculture > factfile > hunger: the facts

Hunger: the facts

Posted: 08 Aug 2003

Some 840 million people suffer from chronic hunger. According to FAO estimates, in 1998-2000, there were 799 million undernourished people in the developing countries, 30 million in the countries in transition and 11 million in the industrialized countries. Millions of people, including 6 million children under the age of 5, die each year as a result of hunger. Hunger not only reduces life expectancy. It costs developing countries up to $128 billion a year in productivity losses, according to FAO.

  • Despite its forecasts of continued growth in food production, ahead of population growth, FAO estimates point to the fact that: �In 2015 there could still be about 580 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment� � another way of saying that they will be dying of hunger.

  • In 1984 only 10 per cent of the world�s food emergencies were caused by man-made disasters such as civil wars. By 1999, 53 per cent were. There is a strikingly close relationship between incidences of civil conflict and child mortality.

  • A disproportionately large number of those who suffer from malnutrition are women and children. Each year an estimated 18 million people, mostly children, die from malnutrition and related causes.

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around half of the world�s population suffers from poor nutrition. The number of people who eat too much, and suffer from obesity, cholesterol-choked arteries and the like, probably exceeds the number of hungry. They are concentrated in the affluent North with the United States leading in the fatty stakes, and the UK not far behind.

  • Several billion people are classified as the hidden hungry. They may appear adequately fed, but suffer in some way from the lack of essential vitamins or minerals. According to UNICEF, almost 2 billion people are anaemic and 3.7 billion are iron-deficient, most being women. In Africa and Asia iron-deficiency anaemia is thought to cause around a fifth of all maternal deaths. Between 100 and 140 million children suffer from vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness, and diseases associated with this deficiency kill a million children a year. Some 20 million people worldwide are mentally handicapped as a result of iodine deficiency.

Related Links:

Underfed and Overfed, The Global Epidemic of Malnutrition.

FAO: The State of World Food Insecurity.

FAO: World Agriculture: Towards 2015/2030.

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