#Worldfoodday – The global extent undernourisment

In honour of world food day – My next three blogs aim to provide an overview of three core issues related to global hunger and malnutrition.

  1. The global extent of hunger and malnutrition – highlighting the worst affected areas including a couple of case studies
  2. The causes of hunger and malnutrition – while there are many, it’s not that hard to get your head around the causes – what is hard to get your head around is the appalling morality of vested interested responsible for causing global hunger  
  3. Possible solutions to global hunger and malnutrition – a quick look at some very straightforward measures that would help relieve global hunger  

 The blogs are aimed to provide an accessible overview and links to further resources for A level students studying the A2 Global Development module in Sociology. Obviously malnutrition is   

 Key terms

 World Hunger Poverty facts and stats is a good source for key terms-

  • Undernourishment – Those who are Undernourished are those individuals whose food intake falls below the minimum level of dietary energy requirements –approximately 1600 calories a day, although undernourishment can obviously take other forms besides pure calorie undernourishment as people may have sufficient calories but lacking in nutrients such as vitamins and protein. The FAOs’ method of calculating the proportion of the population who are undernourished is complex – but I’m not going into that here!
  • Malnutrition is the broader term that describes the condition that results from taking an unbalanced diet in which certain nutrients are lacking, in excess (too high an intake), or in the wrong proportions. Most of the stats used below refer to undernourishment rather than malnourishment
  • Famine -For the UN to officially declare a famine, three important conditions must be met. First, 20 per cent of the population must have fewer than 2100 kilocalories (NB not calories, the two are different measurements) of food available per day. Secondly, more than 30 per cent of children must be acutely malnourished. And finally, two deaths per day in every 10,000 people – or four deaths per day in every 10,000 children – must be being caused by lack of food.


The Global extent of undernourishment

Key resources for this section –

In 1990, the first Millennium Development Goal of tackling poverty and hunger set out the halve the number of people facing hunger by 2015 – the MDG website notes that progress towards this goal has recently stalled

If we look at percentages, then some progress has been made – In 1990, 20% of the world’s population was undernourished, and this had decreased to 16 per cent by 2005-2007, the latest period for which hard data is available. While this is progress, this is nowhere near on target to halve the proportion of people suffering hunger – in fact progress had started to stall as early as s 2000-2002 – and there is now, realistically, no chance of the 2015 goal being achieved (well unless the starving die in sufficient numbers!)

If, however, we look at gross numbers then the total number of undernourished people has actually increased (the global population has increased overall) In 2005-2007, the last period assessed, 830 million people were still undernourished, which was an increase from 817 million in 1990-1992.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates the number of malnourished people may have been as high as 1 billion in 2009, following the financial crisis and food price spikes, but the FAO expects that this is the peak year and that numbers should decline into 2010 onwards. The latest 2010 FAO estimates are that 925 million people are malnourished around the globe

Regions –


Nearly all of the undernourished people in the world live in developing countries. Going back to the hard data from the UN – Looking at regions – take your pick as to which of the following two scenarios are worst – the highest proportion of malnourished people are in sub Saharan Africa – 26% of the population – but at least this 2008 figure shows a 5% reduction on the 1990 figure of 31%.

In Southern Asia, the percentage is lower – 21%, but this figure is the same as the 1990 figure – meaning there has been no progress on tackling malnourishment is this area in almost two decades. It’s worth noting that in a similar time period, the number of Billionaires in India increased from 0 in 1990 to 55 in 2011

Obviously I could have talked about the East African Famine and the recent Food Riots as indicators of the global food crisis – but that’s as much time as I’ve got – next blog will look at some of the causes of undernourishment

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One thought on “#Worldfoodday – The global extent undernourisment”

  1. Hello! Sorry to leave an unrelated post, but I’m interested in the possibility of writing a guest post for your blog and couldn’t find an email address anywhere. If you could drop me a line, I’d love to share my idea and see if we can work something out.
    Brittney Lyons

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