Takeaways from the 2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World Report

Photo taken from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center's flickr photostream used under a Creative Commons license

Photo taken from International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center’s flickr photostream used under a Creative Commons license

By Jeremiah Magpile and Caitlin Allmaier

On September 16, the Food and Agricultural Organization published its annual State of Food Insecurity in the World Report, which tracks regional progress on Millennium Development Goal 1 using indicators related to access, availability, stability, and utilization. The report concluded that global efforts to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015 have been effective, and that MDG-1 is within reach for numerous areas of the world. Despite broad progress, however, regional disparities remain; a full quarter of the world’s hungry now reside in sub-Saharan Africa, and the region will need accelerated support to have any hope of meeting MDG-1 by 2015. Further, Asia still continues to have the highest number of undernourished people, despite Southeast Asia meeting the World  having already met the more stringent 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) hunger target. Below are other takeaways from the report:

  • From 2012-2014, about 805 million people were chronically undernourished.

The FAO defines chronic undernourishment as the lack of access to insufficient supplies of food that can support an active and healthy life. The number of people suffering from undernourishment worldwide has decreased by over 100 million over the past decade, and is 209 million lower than original MDG measurements in 1990-1992. Today, 13.5 percent of the population in developing regions remain chronically undernourished, down from 23.4 percent in 1990-92.

The changing distribution of hunger in the world: numbers and shares of undernourished people by region,  1990–92 and 2012–14 (Source: 2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World Report, pg. 11)

The figure on the left describes the trajectory of undernourishment in developing regions, and actual and projected progress towards the MDG and WFS targets. The figure on the right describes the changing distribution of hunger in the world by region. (Source: 2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World Report, pg. 9;11)

  • 63 developing countries have reached the hunger target set by MDG-1.

Concurrently, 25 countries halved the total number of people who suffer from undernourishment under WFS commitments. The FAO report showcases that the relative success met by countries pursing the MDG goal prove the goal to be achievable across the world; the WFS goal, however, is much steeper, and requires more attention and regional support than is possible for achievement by 2015.

  • Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have made the best overall progress.

The FAO credits the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative, instituted in 2005, for a large proportion of the improvements made throughout the last decade. The initiative catalyzed multi-sectorial cooperation “following the realization that increasing production alone was not enough to end hunger,” according to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

  • Global reduction of hunger requires an integrated approach.

The report concluded that multi-sectorial partnerships are critical in permanently eradicating hunger worldwide. Public and private investments in agricultural development are needed to increasing productivity, reduce waste, and increase access to inputs, land, services, technologies, and markets for small to large-scale farmers. Inclusive measures to promote social protection for the most vulnerable populations, particularly mothers and children, factor into the FAO’s vision of a hunger-free world.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World Report illustrates the progress made in strengthening global food security, and individual and community resilience, but also offers hope for the ultimate defeat of hunger on a global scale. By analyzing exactly how MDG-1 has been and can be met by 2015, the report has laid the groundwork for how food security work will fit into the post-2015 development agenda. There is much work ahead, and it is clear that sustained political commitment at the highest levels will be needed for continued progress.

Jeremiah Magpile is a Program Coordinator and Research Assistant for the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Caitlin Allmaier is a researcher for the Food Security Program at CSIS. 

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