World hunger 'intolerable,' with scant progress in decade: UN

Global leaders have made little progress on a 10-year-old plan to combat world hunger, with about 820 million people still going hungry, a UN report said Monday.

Global leaders have made little progress on a 10-year-old plan to combat world hunger, with an estimated820 million people still going hungry,a UN reportwarned Monday.

To meet the goal,the number of undernourished people in the world would have had to decrease by about 31 million every year until 2015 — but instead, it has climbed, says the report from theUnited NationsFood and Agriculture Organization.

"Far from decreasing, the number of hungry people in the world is currently increasing at the rate of four million a year," Jacques Diouf, the director-general of the FAO, said as he released the report in Rome.

"Today, I am deeply sorry to report that the situation remains intolerable and unacceptable, all the more so because 10 years have passed."

The report said theleaders of 185 countries pledged at the World Food Summit in 1996 to cut the number of people going hungry by half by 2015. They reaffirmed that aim in the Millennium Development Goals, a series of targets set by the UNin 2000.

"Business as usual will not do," Diouf wrote in the report, entitled The State of Food Insecurity in the World, as he urged the world to do more to tackle the problem.

Focus on 'poverty hot spots,' report urges

Diouf said solutions exist to the problem of world hunger, including:

  • Bringing an end to international conflicts.
  • Promoting economic growth.
  • Ensuring that access to food is not blocked or disrupted by wars.
  • Encouraging rural development.

"We are confident that the race against hunger can still be won, but only if the necessary resources, political will and correct policies are forthcoming," Diouf wrote in the report's foreword.

Focusing on "poverty hot spots" is a good idea, he said.

"A twin-track approach, emphasizing direct action against hunger along with a focus on agricultural and rural development, is effective in providing the most vulnerable and food-insecure people with new livelihood possibilities and hope for a better life," Diouf wrote in the report.

Hunger drops slightly in sub-Sahara

The report, which is produced annually by the FAO, was not all bad news, despite painting a bleak picture of hunger around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where "the task facing the region remains daunting" and there are 206 million people undernourished.

The report said population increases mean the number of people going hungry in the developing world declined to 17 per cent in the period 2001-2003, compared with 20 per cent in the period 1990-1992.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a drop in numbers, with the population of undernourished peopledecreasing to 32 per cent from 35 per cent of the population.

The drop was felt mostly in countries in East, West and Southern Africa, although countries in central Africa, including Congo, experienced an increase, with the percentage of hungry peoplerising from 36 per cent to 56 per cent.

The number of such people has also dropped in Asia and Latin America and such densely populated countries as China, India, Indonesia and Brazil have recorded a decline, according to the report.

Asia's'most serious' decline? N. Korea

But the decreases are not enough for the world to reach the 2015 goal because other countries are not faring as well, it said.

In Asia, the problem of undernourishment is acute in North Korea, which the report saidhas "the most serious deterioration in food security" in that continent.

The population of hungry people there grew from 3.6 million in 1990-1992 to 7.9 million in 2001-2003.

With files from the Associated Press