A combination of the food crisis and the global economic downturn has pushed more than 1 billion people into hunger in 2009, UN agencies said today, confirming a grim forecast released earlier this year.
The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program said 1.02 billion people about 100 million people more than last year are undernourished in 2009, the highest number in four decades, Reuters reports.
“The rising number of hungry people is intolerable,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf as the new annual report on world hunger was released.
“We have the economic and technical means to make hunger disappear, what is missing is a stronger political will to eradicate hunger forever,” he said.
The increase in the number of hungry people is not a result of poor harvests but is due to high food prices particularly in developing countries lower incomes and lost jobs.
Even before the recent twin crises of food and recession, the number of undernourished people had risen steadily for a decade, reversing progress made in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The Group of Eight countries in July pledged $20 billion (R144 billion) over three years to help poor nations feed themselves, signalling a new focus on longer-term agricultural development.
That has sparked some concerns that emergency food aid might be cut back as a result.
The WFP last year raised a record $5 billion (R36 billion) to feed poor people as a spike in food prices in 2006-2008 sparked rioting and hoarding in some countries.
So far this year it has received $2.9 billion (R21 billion), and has had to cut food rations or scale back operations in places like Kenya and Bangladesh.
FAO and WFP urge a twin-track approach, saying longer-term investment in agriculture development should not come at the expense of short-term initiatives to fight acute hunger spurred by sudden food shortages.