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Hunger


In politics, humanitarian aid, and social science, hunger is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs.

Throughout history, portions of the world's population have often experienced sustained periods of hunger. In many cases, this resulted from food supply disruptions caused by war, plagues, or adverse weather. For the first few decades after World War II, technological progress and enhanced political cooperation suggested it might be possible to substantially reduce the number of people suffering from hunger. While progress was uneven, by 2000 the threat of extreme hunger subsided for many of the world's people. According to the WFP some statistics are that, "Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That's about one in nine people on earth. The vast majority of the world's hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished."

Until 2006, the average international price of food had been largely stable for several decades. In the closing months of 2006, however, prices began to rise rapidly. By 2008, rice had tripled in price in some regions, and this severely affected developing countries. Food prices fell in early 2009, but rose to another record high in 2011, and have since decreased slightly. The 2008 worldwide financial crisis further increased the number of people suffering from hunger, including dramatic increases even in advanced economies such as Great Britain, the Eurozone and the United States.

The Millennium Development Goals included a commitment to a further 50% reduction in the proportion of the world's population who suffer from extreme hunger by 2015. As of 2012, this target appeared difficult to achieve, due in part to persistent inflation in food prices. However, in late 2012 the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated it is still possible to hit the target with sufficient effort. In 2013, the FAO estimated that 842 million people are undernourished (12% of the global population). Malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 3.1 million children under 5 every year. UNICEF estimates 300 million children go to bed hungry each night; and that 8000 children under the age of 5 are estimated to die of malnutrition every day.


Year 1990/1992 1991/2001 2004/2006 2007/2009 2010/2012
Number (million) of undernourished people (global) 1,000 919 898 867 868
Percentage of undernourished people (global) 19% 15% 14% 13% 12%

  • Malnutrition is a general term for a condition caused by inadequate dietary intake and/or disease; it can occur in conjunction with both under and over consumption of calories and/or micro-nutrients.
  • Famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to any fauna species; the phenomenon is usually accompanied by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.
  • Starvation describes a "state of exhaustion of the body caused by lack of food." This state may precede death.
  • Appetite is a natural desire to satisfy a bodily need, especially for food.
  • In 2013 Caritas International started a Caritas-wide initiative aimed at ending systemic hunger by 2025. The One human family, food for all campaign focuses on awareness raising, improving the impact of Caritas programs and advocating the implementation of the right to food.
  • The partnership Compact2025, led by IFPRI with the involvement of UN organisations, NGOs and private foundations develops and disseminates evidence-based advice to politicians and other decision-makers aimed at ending hunger and undernutrition in the coming 10 years, by 2025. It bases its claim that hunger can be ended by 2025 on a report by Shenggen Fan and Paul Polman that analyzed the experiences from China, Vietnam, Brazil and Thailand and concludes that eliminating hunger and undernutrition was possible by 2025.
  • In June 2015, the European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have launched a partnership to combat undernutrition especially in children. The program will initiatilly be implemented in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Laos and Niger and will help these countries to improve information and analysis about nutrition so they can develop effective national nutrition policies.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN has created a partnership that will act through the African Union's CAADP framework aiming to end hunger in Africa by 2025. It includes different interventions including support for improved food production, a strengthening of social protection and integration of the right to food into national legislation.
  • Target 1A: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day
    • Poverty gap ratio [incidence x depth of poverty]
    • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption
  • Target 1B: Achieve Decent Employment for Women, Men, and Young People
    • GDP Growth per Employed Person
    • Employment Rate
    • Proportion of employed population below $1.25 per day (PPP values)
    • Proportion of family-based workers in employed population
  • Target 1C: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger
    • Prevalence of underweight children under five years of age
    • Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption
  • Poverty gap ratio [incidence x depth of poverty]
  • Share of poorest quintile in national consumption
  • GDP Growth per Employed Person
  • Employment Rate
  • Proportion of employed population below $1.25 per day (PPP values)
  • Proportion of family-based workers in employed population
  • Prevalence of underweight children under five years of age
  • Proportion of population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption
  • Hunger an unnatural history(2006) by Sharman Apt Russell—rather than focus on the politics and economics of hunger, this work discusses the psychological effect on individuals and also explores the topic from an anthropological perspective.
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