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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

HUNGER

1 - Is there a food shortage in the world?

There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.

2 - What is hunger?

The sensation of hunger, a lack of food in your stomach, is universal. But there are different manifestations of hunger which are each measured in different ways:

  • Under-nourishment is used to describe the status of people whose food intake does not include enough calories (energy) to meet minimum physiological needs for an active life. At present, there are 842 million undernourished people worldwide, most of them in developing countries.
  • Malnutrition means 'badly nourished', but is more than a measure of what we eat or fail to eat. Malnutrition is characterised by inadequate intake of protein, energy and micronutrients and by frequent infections and diseases. Starved of the right nutrition, people will die from common infections like measles or diarrhoea.
    Malnutrition is measured not by how much food is eaten but by physical measurements of the body - weight or height - and age.
  • Wasting is an indicator of acute malnutrition that reflects a recent and severe process that has led to substantial weight loss. This is usually the result of starvation and/or disease.

3 - How is “famine” defined?

While there are various definitions of famine, many experts say that there must be evidence of three specific outcomes before a famine can be declared:

  • At least 20 percent of households face extreme food shortages with limited ability to cope.
  • The prevalence of global acute malnutrition must exceed 30 percent.
  • Death rates must exceed 2 deaths per 10,000 people per day.

 

THE HUNGRY

4 - Who are the hungry?

Despite the impression you often get from the media, emergencies account for less than eight percent of hunger's victims. Few people realise that there are 870 million hungry people in the world who don't make the headlines -- more than the combined populations of the United States, Canada and the European Union. They are of all ages, from babies whose mothers cannot produce enough milk to the elderly with no relatives to care for them. They are the unemployed inhabitants of urban slums, the landless farmers tilling other people's fields, the orphans of AIDS and the sick, who need special or increased food intake to survive.

Above all, children, women and rural communities are on the frontlines of hunger.

5 - Where are the hungry?
The percentage of hungry people is highest in east, central and southern Africa. Around three-quarters of undernourished people live in low-income rural areas of developing countries, principally in higher-risk farming areas. However, the share of the hungry in urban areas is rising.

Of the total number of the 870 million chronically hungry people, over half are in Asia and the Pacific and about a quarter are in Sub-Saharan Africa.

6 - Are the numbers going down?
Whereas good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, hunger has been slowly but steadily on the rise for the past decade, FAO said. The number of hungry people increased between 1995-97 and 2004-06 in all regions except Latin America and the Caribbean. But even in this region, gains in hunger reduction have been reversed as a result of high food prices and the global economic downturn that started in 2008. 

Today, one in eight people do not get enough food to be healthy and lead an active life, making hunger and malnutrition the number one risk to health worldwide -- greater than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.

NUTRITION

7 - What are the effects of malnutrition?
Malnutrition covers a range of problems, such as being dangerously thin, being too short for one's age, being deficient in vitamins and minerals (such as lacking iron which makes you anaemic), or even being too fat (obese). It is measured using the following indicators:

  • Wasting is an indicator of acute malnutrition that reflects a recent and severe process that has led to substantial weight loss. This is usually the result of starvation and/or disease.
  • Stunting is an indicator of chronic malnutrition that reflects the long-term nutritional situation of a population. It is calculated by comparing the height-for-age of a child with a reference population of well nourished and healthy children.
  • Underweight is measured by comparing the weight-for-age of a child with a reference population of well-nourished and healthy children. An estimated 146 million children in developing countries are underweight.

8- Are micronutrients important?
Micronutrient - vitamin and mineral - deficiencies are very important, afflicting nearly two billion people worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, deficiencies of iron, vitamin A, and zinc rank among the top ten leading causes of death through disease in developing countries.