Saturday, February 14, 2009

Worldwide Food Insecurity

The Food and Agriculture Organization has developed a new statistic for measuring food insecurity. Called "Depth of Hunger," the new statistic measures the daily calorie deficit experienced by undernourished people. It makes for stark reading. Congo and Haiti top the list --undernourished people in those states consume 400+ fewer calories per day than the needed minimum. (credit for World Food Programme map showing most affected areas in red)
There are very few success stories, and even those are hardly cause for joy. Mozambique for example has reduced the calorie deficit of its undernourished people from 400 calories/day in 1990 to 320 calories/day in 2005. During the same period the percentage of Mozambique's population food insecurity fell from 59% to 38%. At least their trajectory is moving in the right direction, even though the absolute number of malnourished people is still painfully high.
What is particularly startling about the Depth of Hunger statistic is how remarkably consistent the daily calorie deficit has remained for food insecure people over the past 20 years. Across the world, the story remains the same: the prevalence of hunger has remained stubbornly high. Eight hundred and fifty million people do not have enough to eat. Think about that stark fact. That is roughly one in five people on the planet.
These facts are particularly depressing because they come despite high profile UN efforts under the Millenium Development Goal and World Food Summit banners. (Again, there are a few bright spots: Nicaragua, for example has reduced food insecurity from 50% of its population to 22%.)
We have a long way to go if we are going to achieve the goal of halving by 2015 the number of people who experience hunger.
This Valentine's Day, my gift of love is a contribution to Oxfam.

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