Global Hunger Figure Drops for First Time in 15 Years

The number of people suffering from chronic malnutrition has dropped for the first time in 15 years, said the United Nations' food agency Tuesday.

As of this year, some 925 million people are undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Last year, the figure stood at 1.02 billion – a record high.

Still, while the FAO welcomed the drop in the number of hungry people in the world, it emphasized that the new number is far from the goal.

Among the eight social goals agreed by the 189 U.N. member states in 2000, the U.N. Millennium Development Goals calls for the world to halve the proportion of people who suffered from hunger in 1990 by the year 2015.

As of 2010, however, people living in extreme hunger make up 16 percent of the world's population – slightly down from 18 percent in 2009. In 1990, about 20 percent of the population in developing region was undernourished.

 "The fact that nearly a billion people remain hungry even after the recent food and financial crises have largely passed indicates a deeper structural problem," the FAO observed in its report.

"Governments should encourage increased investment in agriculture, expand safety nets and social assistance programs, and enhance income-generating activities for the rural and urban poor," the agency recommended.

David Beckmann of Bread for the World, meanwhile, directed his call at people in America, from whom he said the constituency power needs to come from.

 "What we need is a much stronger constituency for hungry and poor people. I think a lot of that surge from constituency power needs to come from people who are moved by their conscience or by our God," said Beckmann on Monday.

"That is why I am asking you and other people to be more active on these issues," he stated at a press conference in Washington.

Beckmann further explained how most people who are hungry are simply so because they are poor.

"Globally, we tend to focus on these disaster situation and they are important," said Beckmann, who worked at the World Bank for 15 years. "But 95 percent of the hungry people are just out in remote Mozambique [for example] and they're just damn poor and kids just die and there are no TV cameras. That's the way it's always been."

Beckmann, who is a 2010 World Food Prize laureate, is urging individuals and companies to not only donate, but to advocate on behalf of the hungry and poor with members of Congress.

An ActionAid report released Tuesday found that out of the 28 developing countries it studied, the majority were failing to halve hunger by 2015.

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