FAO: World Must Do Better to Reduce Hunger

In December, the Food and Agriculture Organization released the 2004 edition of its annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World, which found that although the world is not making enough progress to meet the Millennium goal of cutting hunger in half by 2015, countries in all regions of the world have demonstrated that it is possible to reach these goals if the political will is present.

Thirty countries have managed to cut hunger by 25 percent, but hunger still takes a massive toll, being responsible for the deaths of as many as 5 million children annually. Hunger in those countries where it is a major problem is a serious drag on the economy — the FAO estimates that each year hunger and malnutrition costs as much as $30 billion worldwide just in direct medical costs. The economic damage to countries due to the loss of so many people from a preventable costs the world’s economy hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Why is hunger still such a serious problem in a world that produces an enormous amount of food? Its largely the same issues that have exacerbated hunger throughout human history. According to the FAO,

Among the African countries are several that demonstrate another key lesson – that war and civil conflict must be regarded as major causes not only of short-term food emergencies but of widespread chronic hunger. Several countries that have recently emerged from the nightmare of conflict figure prominently among those that have registered steady progress since the WFS as well as those that have scored rapid gains over the past five years.

Not surprisingly, growth in the agricultural sector is also important for reducing hunger. According to the FAO,

Many of the countries that have achieved rapid progress in reducing hunger have something else in ­common – significantly better than average agricultural growth. Within the group of more than 30 countries that are on track to reach the WFS goal, agricultural GDP increased at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, almost one full percentage point faster than for the developing countries as a whole.


‘No drop’ in world hunger deaths. The BBC, December 8, 2004.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2004. The Food and Agricultural Organization, 2004.

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