Millennium Hunger Target Achieved, New FAO Data Indicates

11 June 2015

The Millennium Development Goal target on halving the share of hungry people in the world “can be considered as having been achieved,” according to new data released last month by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Undernourishment in developing regions fell from 23.3 percent in 1990-92 to an estimated 12.9 percent in 2014-16. Although slightly above the original target figure, the agency says the result is within the margin of error given the data available.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime,” said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva.

However a separate, more ambitious target to halve the number of hungry people in the world has been missed “by a large margin,” the agency finds.

The 1996 World Food Summit set out to slash the number of undernourished people from 991 million to just under 500 million this year – but about 795 million people are still undernourished globally.

The new figures are contained in the agency’s State of Food Insecurity (SOFI) report, which has been released annually to help monitor progress towards the achievement of the MDGs.

Africa to miss target

The global averages nonetheless hide significant regional variations, with Africa still facing the greatest challenges.

“Africa as a whole, and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, will not meet the MDG 1c target,” the FAO finds, in a reference to the Millennium Development Goal hunger target.

The number of hungry people on the continent has climbed by almost 40 percent since the 1990-92 base period – rising from 182 million to an estimated 253 million in 2014-16.

In contrast, the Asian region has seen dramatic progress, with as many as 230 million fewer hungry people over the same period. The drop amounts to a 30 percent reduction in the total number of undernourished in the region – from 742 million to 512 million.

Although Asia has already met the MDG hunger target, the FAO considers that the region is unlikely to achieve the additional reduction of 140 million hungry people needed to achieve the tougher World Food Summit target as well.

Latin America and the Caribbean have together achieved the MDG hunger target and also the World Food Summit goal – the only world region to do both.

Trade and food security

The report finds that economic growth is key to reducing undernourishment, but also that “it has to be inclusive and provide opportunities for improving the livelihoods of the poor.”

Raising farm productivity and smallholder incomes is critical to doing so, the FAO says.

Trade is “neither a threat nor a panacea” for food security, the agency argues. Instead, linkages between trade and food security are “complex and context-specific.”

China, Nigeria, Chile, and Peru have all introduced domestic reforms, including on trade, which have played a role in improving food security outcomes.

In contrast, Guatemala, Kenya, Senegal, and Tanzania have all had “disappointing” experiences with economic and trade reforms, the agency finds.

Some countries that have had positive experiences with economic reforms, such as Peru, have also introduced social protection schemes in parallel in order to address uneven economic growth across sectors, tackle income inequality, and mitigate negative effects of the reforms on vulnerable groups.

ICTSD reporting.

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