Hunger Overview

Hunger Overview

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According to Global Food Losses and Food Waste: Extent, Causes and Prevention, Food and Agriculture Organization (2011),

•    Roughly one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year.

•    Overall, on a per-capita basis, much more food is wasted in the industrialized world than in developing countries. It is estimated that the per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.

•    Food losses refer to the decrease in edible food mass throughout the part of the supply chain that specifically leads to edible food for human consumption. Food losses take place at production, postharvest and processing stages in the food supply chain. Food losses occurring at the end of the food chain (retail and final consumption) are rather called “food waste”, which relates to retailers’ and consumers’ behavior.

•    In low-income countries food is mainly lost during the early and middle stages of the food supply chain; much less food is wasted at the consumer level. Food losses in industrialized countries are as high as in developing countries, but in developing countries more than 40% of the food losses occur at post harvest and processing levels, while in industrialized countries, more than 40% of the food losses occur at retail and consumer levels. Food waste at consumer level in industrialized countries (222 million ton) is almost as high as the total net food production in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million ton).

•    The causes of food losses and waste in low-income countries are mainly connected to financial, managerial and technical limitations in harvesting techniques, storage and cooling facilities in difficult climatic conditions, infrastructure, packaging and marketing systems. Producing food that will not be consumed leads to unnecessary CO2 emissions in addition to loss of economic value of the food produced.

•    Food can be wasted due to quality standards, which reject food items not perfect in shape or appearance. At the consumer level, insufficient purchase planning and expiring ‘best-before-dates’ also cause large amounts of waste, in combination with the careless attitude of those consumers who can afford to waste food.

•    Per capita food loss in Europe and North-America is 280-300 kg/year. In Sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia it is 120-170 kg/year. The total per capita production of edible parts of food for human consumption is, in Europe and North-America, about 900 kg/year and, in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia, 460 kg/year.

•    Per capita food wasted by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.

•    In the case of meat and meat products losses and waste in industrialized regions are most severe at the end of the food supply chain—FSC, explained by a high per capita meat consumption combined with large waste proportions by retailers and consumers, especially in Europe and the U.S. Waste at the consumption level makes up approximately half of total meat losses and waste.

According to John, Mason, Hunt, Joseph, Parker, David and Jonsson, Urban (1999): Investing in Child Nutrition in Asia, Asian Development Review, Vol. 17, nos. 1,2, pp. 1-32,

• About half the preschool children in Asia are considered to be malnourished, ranging from 16 percent underweight in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to 64 percent in Bangladesh, and a similar percentage are deficient in one or more micronutrients.

• Poor diet and infectious disease interact to cause growth failure in children, physiological damage especially to the immune system, and specific clinical conditions like anemia, leading to impaired development and death.

• Malnutrition is the largest risk factor in the world for disability and premature mortality, especially in developing countries, and is entirely preventable. Eliminating malnutrition would cut child mortality by more than 50 percent, and reduce the burden of disease in developing countries by about 20 percent

• Micronutrient deficiencies, measured by specific signs, are very widespread, in fact more so than general malnutrition, in part because the poor first meet energy needs, and the cheapest energy sources are the lowest in micronutrients. The three of most concern are vitamin A deficiency (VAD), iron deficiency, usually assessed as anemia, and iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs).

• Anemia resulting from iron deficiency is highly prevalent and showing no signs of declining in Asia. More than half the women of reproductive age are anemic, and children are similarly affected

According to 2010 Global Hunger Index, which has been brought out by International Food Policy research Institute (IFPRI),

•    The 2010 Global Hunger Index (GHI) is calculated for 122 developing countries and countries in transition for which data on the three components of hunger are available.

•    The Index scores countries based on three equally weighted indicators: the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the child mortality rate.

•    The Index ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst, although neither of these extremes is reached in practice.

•    An increase in a country’s GHI score indicates that the hunger situation is worsening, while a decrease in the score indicates an improvement in the country’s hunger situation.

•    This year’s GHI reflects data from 2003-2008—the most recent available global data on the three components of hunger.

•    Since 1990, the world’s GHI score has decreased by nearly 25 percent. However, global hunger remains at a “serious” level.

•    South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa continue to suffer from the highest levels of hunger, with regional scores of 22.9 and 21.7, respectively.

•    Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, Nicaragua, and Vietnam made the most absolute progress in improving their scores between the 1990 GHI and 2010 GHI. In the same period, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Tunisia, and Turkey made the most relative progress in reducing hunger.

•    Undernutrition signifies deficiencies in energy, protein, and/or essential vitamins and minerals. Undernutrition is the result of inadequate intake of food—in terms of either quality or quantity—or poor utilization of nutrients due to infections or other illnesses, or a combination of these two factors.

•    Bangladesh, India, and Timor-Leste have the highest prevalence of underweight children in Asia– 40 percent.

•    Bangladesh: Over the past 25 years, Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing its under-five mortality rate, as well as the prevalence of underweight and stunted children. Despite these improvements, 54 out of every 1,000 children do not survive to their fifth birthday and a staggering 43 percent of Bangladeshi children are stunted, accounting for almost 4 percent of stunted children worldwide.

•    China: Between 1990 and 2002, China reduced child malnutrition from 25 percent to 8 percent with a highly successful poverty alleviation strategy; effective large-scale health, nutrition, and family-planning interventions; and increased spending on water, sanitation, and education.

•    India: Between 1990 and 2008, the prevalence of underweight children dropped from 60 percent to 44 percent, while the under-five mortality rate fell from 12 percent to 7 percent.

•    In 2005-06, about 44 percent of Indian children under age five were underweight and 48 percent were stunted. Because of the country’s large population, India is home to 42 percent of the world’s underweight children and 31 percent of its stunted children.

•    Malaysia: Between 1990 and 2005, the proportion of children who were underweight decreased from 22 percent to 7 percent. This impressive reduction can be attributed to rapid economic growth, as well as interventions targeted to women and young children.

•    Thailand: During the 1980s, Thailand halved malnutrition from 50 percent to 25 percent by using targeted nutrition interventions and creating a widespread network of community volunteers to help change people’s behavior.


According to The State of Food Insecurity in the World: Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises, which has been brought out by the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Programme,  

•    The number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high at near the one billion mark despite an expected decline in 2010 for the first time since 1995. This decline is largely attributable to increased economic growth foreseen in 2010 – particularly in developing countries – and the fall in international food prices since 2008.

•    A total of 925 million people are still estimated to be undernourished in 2010, representing almost 16 percent of the population of developing countries. 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 that gravely threatens the ability to achieve internationally agreed goals on hunger reduction: the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and the 1996 World Food Summit goal.

•    In the 22 countries identified by this report as being in protracted crisis (or containing areas in protracted crisis), the most recent data show that more than 166 million people are undernourished, representing nearly 40 percent of the population of these countries and nearly 20 percent of all undernourished people in the world.

•    This unacceptably high degree of hunger results from many factors, including armed conflict and natural disasters, often in combination with weak governance or public administration, scarce resources, unsustainable livelihoods systems and breakdown of local institutions.

•    On average, the proportion of people who are undernourished is almost three times as high in countries in protracted crisis as in other developing countries (if countries in protracted crisis and China and India are excluded). There are approximately 166 million undernourished people in countries in protracted crisis – roughly 20 percent of the world’s undernourished people, or more than a third of the global total if China and India are excluded from the calculation.

•    A deeper analysis of the relationship between protracted crisis and food security outcomes shows that changes in income, government effectiveness, control of corruption and the number of years in crisis are significantly related to the proportion of the population who are undernourished. These factors, plus education, are also all significantly related to a country’s Global Hunger Index.

•    Based on the latest available data, the total number of undernourished people in the world is estimated to have reached 1 023 million in 2009 and is expected to decline by 9.6 percent to 925 million in 2010. Developing countries account for 98 percent of the world’s undernourished people and have a prevalence of undernourishment of 16 percent – down from 18 percent in 2009 but still well above the target set by the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1.

•    International cereal prices have declined in recent months and are below their recent peaks, reflecting ample global cereal supplies in 2009/10 and prospects for large crops in 2010, but food prices in most low-income food-deficit countries remain above the pre-crisis level of early 2008, negatively affecting access to food by vulnerable populations.

•    Vulnerable households deal with shocks by selling assets, which are very difficult to rebuild, by reducing food consumption in terms of quantity and variety and by cutting down on health and education expenditures – coping mechanisms that all have long-term negative effects on quality of life and livelihoods.

•    The majority of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries. Two-thirds live in just seven countries (Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan) and over 40 percent live in China and India alone.

•    The region with most undernourished people continues to be Asia and the Pacific, but with a 12 percent decline from 658 million in 2009 to 578 million, this region also accounts for most of the global improvement expected in 2010.

•    Developing countries as a group have seen an overall setback in terms of the World Food Summit goal (from 827 million in 1990–92 to 906 million in 2010), while some progress has been made towards MDG 1 (with the prevalence of hunger declining from 20 percent undernourished in 1990–92 to 16 percent in 2010).

•    The proportion of undernourished people remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at 30 percent in 2010. As of 2005–07 (the most recent period for which complete data are available), the Congo, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria had already achieved MDG 1 and Ethiopia and others were close to achieving it; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, however, the proportion of undernourishment had risen to 69 percent (from 26 percent in 1990–92).

•    In Asia, Armenia, Myanmar and Viet Nam had achieved MDG 1 and China and others were close to doing so, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, Guyana, Jamaica and Nicaragua had achieved MDG 1 and Brazil and others were approaching the target reduction.

According to the FAO Report-The State of Food Insecurity in the World-2008   



• World hunger is increasing: The World Food Summit (WFS)  goal of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by 2015 is becoming more difficult to reach for many countries. FAO’s most recent estimates put the number of hungry people at 923 million in 2007, an increase of more than 80 million since the 1990–92 base period.

• High food prices share much of the blame: The most rapid increase in chronic hunger experienced in recent years occurred between 2003–05 and 2007. FAO’s provisional estimates show that, in 2007, 75 million more people were added to the total number of undernourished relative to 2003–05. While several factors are responsible, high food prices are driving millions of people into food insecurity, worsening conditions for many who were already  food-insecure, and threatening long-term global food security.

• The poorest, landless and female-headed households are the hardest hit: The vast majority of urban and rural households in the developing world rely on food purchases for most of their food and stand to lose from high food prices. High food prices reduce real income and worsen the prevalence of food insecurity and malnutrition among the poor by reducing the quantity and quality of food consumed.

• Initial governmental policy responses have had limited effect: To contain the negative effects of high food prices, governments have introduced various measures, such as price controls and export restrictions. While understandable from an immediate social welfare  perspective, many of these actions have been ad hoc and are likely to be ineffective and unsustainable. Some have had damaging effects on world price levels and stability.

• By virtue of their size, China and India combined account for 42 percent of the chronically hungry people in thedeveloping world. The importance of China and India in the overall picture warrants some analysis of the main driving forces behind hunger trends

• After registering impressive gains between 1990–92 and the mid-1990s,  progress in reducing hunger in India has stalled since about 1995–97. The high proportion of undernourished in India in the base had a challenging task in reducing the number of undernourished

• The increase in the number of undernourished in India can be traced to a slowing in the growth (even a slight decline) in per capita dietary energy supply for human consumption since 1995–97. On the demand side, life expectancy in India has increased from 59 to 63 years since 1990–92. This has had an important impact on the overall  change in population structure, with the result that in 2003–05 the growth in minimum dietary energy requirements had outpaced that of dietary energy supply

• The combination of the declining per capita growth rate in total dietary energy supply and higher per capita dietary energy requirements resulted in an estimated 24 million more undernourished people in India in 2003–05 compared with the base period. The increased food needs of the ageing population amount to about 6.5 million tonnes per year in cereal equivalent. Nevertheless, the prevalence of hunger in India decreased from 24 percent in 1990–92 to 21 percent in 2003–05, marking progress towards meeting the MDG hunger reduction target.


According to the Report on the State of Food Insecurity in Rural India (2009), which has been prepared by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and the World Food Programme (WFP),

• On the composite index of food insecurity of rural India, states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are found in the ‘very high’ level of food insecurity, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat. The indicators used for computing the index of food insecurity in rural India are: a) Percentage of population consuming less than 1,890 Kcal /cu/diem; b) Percentage of households not having access to safe drinking water; c) Percentage of households not having access to toilets within the premises; d) Percentage of ever-married women age 15 – 49 years who are anaemic; e) Percentage of women (15 – 49 yrs) with CED; f) Percentage of children in the age group 6 – 35 months who are anaemic; and, g) Percentage of children in the age group 6 – 35 months who are stunted

• The better performers include Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, all of which report an Index value below 0.5

• The proportion of population consuming less than 1890 kcal/cu/diem has in fact increased in the states of Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal, Rajasthan and marginally for Punjab.

• Almost 2/3rd of rural households in Jharkhand did not have access to safe drinking water in 2001.

• More than 90 percent of rural households in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh did not have access to toilets within their premises.

• As many as eight states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – have shown increase in the incidence of anaemia among women in the reproductive age group. The highest increase in anaemia levels has been observed in Andhra Pradesh (51 to 64 percent), followed by Haryana (48 to 57 percent) and Kerala (23 to 32 percent).

• The proportion of women with CED has drastically increased for Assam (28 to 40 percent) followed by Bihar (40 to 46 percent), Madhya Pradesh (42 to 45 percent) and Haryana (31 to 33 percent).


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