World hunger facts

Sixteen years ago, the world decided it was time to formally prioritize ending world hunger. The United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Development Goal One (MDG1) was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. MDG1, Target 1.C, was to “halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.”

The U.N.’s target was largely met: the proportion of undernourished people in the world’s developing regions has fallen by almost half since 1990. But, there are still 795 million people hungry in the world and more than 90 million children under age five are underweight and malnourished. World hunger facts offer us insight into why this is still a problem in the world today.

According to the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), there are two faces to world hunger and 10 crucial facts to understand. The two sides to world hunger are crises and chronic malnutrition. Emergencies such as wars and natural disasters “account for less than eight percent of hunger’s victims.”

Chronic hunger can continue with no end in sight with people living on less than the recommended 2,100 kilocalories daily intake of food. This chronic hunger accounts for mental disadvantages in adults, stunted growth in children and weakened immune systems.

10 World Hunger Facts from the U.N. World Food Programme

  1. Approximately one in nine or 795 million people worldwide do not receive enough food to lead a healthy, active life.
  2. Most of the world’s hungry live in developing countries: 12.9% of the inhabitants of these areas do not have enough food.
  3. Asia is the continent with the largest number of hungry people, making up two-thirds of the total number of malnourished peoples.
  4. Sub-Saharan Africa has one in four people undernourished; it is the region with the highest percentage of its population going hungry.
  5. Malnutrition causes 45% of the deaths of children under five. This accounts for 3.1 million deaths of children each year.
  6. In developing countries, one in six children is underweight.
  7. Stunting affects one in four of the world’s children and one in three children in developing countries.
  8. The number of malnourished could be reduced by 150 million if female farmers had the same access to resources as their male counterparts do.
  9. In the developing world, 66 million primary children attend classes hungry, 23 million of those in Africa.
  10.  WFP believes that the 66 million school-aged children could be fed with $3.2 billion per year.

Just as there are more than 10 world hunger facts, so too are there many organizations working to combat world hunger. One group that is helping to end world hunger is The World Bank. The group has been working with other international groups by “investing in agriculture, creating jobs, expanding social safety nets, expanding nutrition programs that target children under two years of age, universalizing education, promoting gender equality and protecting vulnerable countries during crises.”

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

In a presentation at the United Nations University earlier this month, Jeffrey Sachs gave updates on the Millennium Development Goals and projections for after 2015. Sachs, one of the developers of the Millennium Development Goals and Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University, discussed the post-2015 future of sustainable development. With the expiration of the MDGs set for 2015, attention is turning to the Millennium Villages Project and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Despite the progress of many nations agreeing to the framework of the MDGs, there is still room for improvement. In the midst of the Ebola crisis, the interdependency of the MDGs, especially focusing on maternal health, epidemic diseases and education, has emphasized a need for equal attention to the goals.

With expectations for exponential increases in global GDP and population, the need for advanced poverty relief is greater than ever. Under the new SDSN framework, set to be instituted by the United Nations after 2015, new goals will be created to target financial responsibility and climate change. In 2015, three conversations will take place in both developed and developing nations to tackle the next phase after the MDGs.

Jeffrey Sachs is seen to be among the frontrunners of the next several decades of continued development. Though the concrete plans implementing change are still yet to be solidified in the post-2015 meetings, cooperation between developed and developing nations is still going to be in the center of the plans.

In an article written in Horizons, Sachs writes, “Ours is a world of fabulous wealth and extreme poverty: billions of people enjoy longevity and good health unimaginable in previous generations, yet at least one billion people live in such abject poverty that they struggle for mere survival every day. The poorest of the poor face the daily life-and-death challenges of insufficient nutrition, lack of healthcare, unsafe shelter, and the lack of safe drinking water and sanitation.” The gap between the OCED and developing nations is growing, and Sachs is acutely aware that the growing rate of the global economy will only aggravate the poverty gap. Achieving a basic standard of living will not eliminate the poverty gap, but will ease the daily struggles of the bottom quintile.

The sustainable development framework is working to achieve a universal standard of living. Though it was intended to reach this standard by 2015, realistically, additional work under a revised viewpoint will follow in the subsequent years.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: UN U, UN, UNSDN, Millennium Villages, CIRSD
Photo: Flickr

The problem of hunger in Kazakhstan is no longer considered urgent. As of 2004, the country has successfully achieved the first target, within the framework of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) one: halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. However, the larger issue remains that a majority of the proportion still suffers from poverty and lacks access to a balanced nutrition.

In Kazakhstan, four percent of children under five are underweight, while almost one percent are severely underweight. Another 13 percent are stunted for their age, illustrating measures of both acute and chronic malnutrition. Hidden hunger, or deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals in a diet, is common among children in Kazakhstan and often leads to their morbidity and mortality.

In related news, women are likely to obtain iron-deficiency anemia, with almost 50 percent of reproductive age women suffering from the condition. High rates of anemia during pregnancy have led to large numbers of children in Kazakhstan suffering from slow brain development, stunted growth and a decrease of intellectual capacity. Mothers who suffer from iron deficiencies also create a greater chance of death for their child during pregnancy and childbirth.

Lack of Vitamin A for pregnant women has also caused concern in Kazakhstan, due to the fact that roughly 20 percent of children are born with depressed immune systems. Consequently, the children are more prone to infectious diseases without the capability of fighting it off.

Poverty, especially in rural areas, is to blame for the remaining starvation in the country. Levels of rural poverty are currently twice as high as urban poverty, leaving many children in remote villages with inadequate food intake. Children in West Kazakhstan are more likely to be underweight than any other children in the country. However, the percentage decreases depending on the level of education of their mothers.

Although hunger in Kazakhstan is well on its way in being eliminated, the country still has work that needs to be done. Kazakhstan is active on the regional and international arena in achieving development goals and objectives. Given Kazakhstan’s success within the framework of MDG 1, this bodes well for social service delivery in the future.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UNDP, UNDG
Photo: Flickr

The world has halved extreme poverty rates and almost halved preventable child deaths since 1990. Numbers of those dying of AIDS have been nearly halved as well, and about 10 million are now on life saving anti-AIDS treatment.

The question remains whether or not we can feasibly eradicate these issues by 2030. There are two possible outcomes that moral leaders, Malala, Desmond Tutu and Graca Machel have discussed: continuing on this road and ending extreme poverty, and failing to achieve our goal.

These leaders have warned that this next year, 2015, could be a year of great opportunity, but also holds a huge risk. In a letter written by these leaders, they call on other world leaders to make next year heavily influential in the fight against poverty. A quote taken from the letter:

“Down another path we have failed to build on progress, but have allowed the injustice of poverty, hunger and pandemics to spread… This is an entirely plausible outcome of a complacent business as usual approach to 2015.”

These leaders are giving a firm warning that if things aren’t taken seriously in 2015, the path toward ending extreme poverty could be severely stunted. The letter ends with motivation, saying that we should look with confidence toward a future where equal opportunity is given.

This week many decisions are being made and this could mean the difference between a poverty free world or back tracking. Diplomats from U.N. member states are finalizing a draft blueprint for the post 2015 development agenda since next year the U.N.’s development framework, Millennium Development Goals (MDG), will reach its deadline and will need to be replaced.

MDG was formulated in September of 2000 and focuses on eight main issues that serve as guides for organizations to work on. The number one on this list was to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.  As 2015 approaches and a new development plan is set in place, eradicating global poverty by 2030 is the new goal moving forward.

Brooke Smith

Sources: World Bank, ONE, ONE 2, ONE 3
Photo: Flickr

As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals quickly approaches, the UN is encouraging governments around the world to intensify their efforts on the goals that have seen little or no progress since 2000. The main goals that still require significant attention are reducing maternal and child deaths and increasing access to improved sanitation facilities.

There have been several successes in these areas so far. In the past 20 years, the number of children dying before the age of five has dropped by nearly 50 percent. The global maternal mortality ratio has dropped by about 45 percent. It is estimated that 3.3 million deaths due to malaria have been prevented. Additionally, the goal of improving access to safe water globally has been met.

The 2014 report put out by the UN, which is based on data from 2010 to 2014, claims that many other goals are still attainable if current trends and efforts continue.

However, there are some goals that do not seem feasible any longer. Only half of pregnant women in developing countries are getting the appropriate number of prenatal checkups. Diarrhea and pneumonia are still prevalent in many countries and are the main causes of death in children under five. In the past four years, 162 million children were not receiving proper nutrition. Finally, sanitation facilities are not as available as they should be, even in middle-income countries; more than one billion people are still required to resort to open defecation.

Andy Haines, a public health expert and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom, said that the results of these goals are a “mixed picture of major advances towards some goals and worrying shortfalls in progress in the case of others.”

The Millennium Development Goals that are furthest from completion are the ones relating to women: gender equality and reducing maternal and child deaths. Last year, UNICEF claimed that at the current rate, the goal of reducing maternal and child deaths by two-thirds will not be achieved until 2028.

Seven out of the nine regions throughout the world that are participating in the MDG have not reached the goal of reducing maternal and child deaths. Three of them, Oceania, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, are not expected to achieve this particular goal, and others may fall short as 2015 approaches.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recognizes the progress made thus far, but also the need for continued efforts. He said, “The concerted efforts of national governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector have helped expand hope and opportunity for people around the world. But more needs to be done to accelerate progress. We need bolder and focused action where significant gaps and disparities exist.”

By learning from the flaws of the Millennium Development Goals, the UN and fellow organizations have already begun work on the next set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals will incorporate a wider span of topics that were not in the MDG, such as economic and environmental issues.

– Hannah Cleveland 

Sources: The Guardian, Science Development Network
Photo: Unicef

In the face of toughest global challenges, the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) links problems with solutions to foster global peace, prosperity, and justice. It connects people, ideas, and resources to help the United Nations (UN) solve the most intractable global problems, such as energy access, climate change, global health, women’s empowerment, population, hunger, and poverty eradication. In fact, it literally reflects its motto, “Connecting You with the United Nations.”

Established by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner in 1998, the UN Foundation has been an advocate for the UN and helped the UN address pressing and far-reaching international issues through partnerships, campaigns, and fundraising.

A worldwide partnership between the public and private sectors is indispensable and very significant. The UN Foundation has a wide range of dynamic and win-win partnerships with corporations, organizations, and influences around the world. Since the UN Foundation was founded, it has established more than 300 organizational partnerships with over 40 UN agencies and more than 100 governments.

A great example of its corporate partnership is the collaboration between NBA Cares and the UN Foundation campaign Nothing But Nets, a global grassroots campaign to save lives by preventing malaria, a leading killer of children in Africa. Not only does the message about malaria reach wide audiences via the platform provided by NBA Cares, but it also highlights the involvement of NBA Cares in the campaign. In this way, the UN Foundation offers its partners the ability to do good in the world while also promotes their corporate causes.

To strengthen the connection between the UN and influences, the UN Foundation supports the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) to run the UN Creative Community Outreach Initiative (CCOI), which acts as a liaison between the UN and top level content creators, such as directors, new media professionals, and writers. The initiative aims to inform people about the activities of the UN and its priority issues via TV, film, music, and new media.

Because of the approaching 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a blueprint accepted by all the world’s countries and leading development institutions, discussion over the Post-2015 Development Agenda has become one of the most important and influential conversations of this century. As a longstanding and strong supporter of the UN, the UN Foundation will convene informal meetings and workshops on thematic issues and facilitate global dialogues among developing country think tanks, thought leaders, civil society and private sector partners.

– Liying Qian

Sources: UN Foundation, UN Business, UN CCOI, UN Association
Photo: PR Web

This is the second in a series of posts reviewing the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs are a set of eight targets agreed upon by almost every country in the world, based on a shared commitment to the improvement of the social, economic, and political lives of all people. They are to be achieved by 2015 and, with two years to go, it’s time to see how far we’ve come and what is left to be done.

The second of these goals is to achieve universal primary education. All children, regardless of gender or socioeconomic background, deserve the opportunity to receive a high quality education. Because of concerted efforts to meet this goal, more children are attending primary school today than ever before, with 570 million children enrolled in school. From 1999 to 2006, the number of out-of-school children fell from 103 million to 73 million, and primary school enrollment in developing countries increased from 83% to 88%. Primary school enrollment continued increasing, reaching 90% by 2010. However, progress is slowing with the number of primary school aged children out of school falling by only 3 million between 2008 and 2011.

Despite significant progress, children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most likely not to attend primary school, with the net primary school enrollment ratio there increasing to only 71%. This leaves roughly 38 million children without a primary school education. On the other hand, 90% of Southern Asian children attend primary school. This represents excellent progress, although it still leaves 18 million children without the basic reading and math skills they would learn in school.

Inequities in access to primary education represent the main barrier to reaching the second MDG. The UN estimates that, without accelerated progress, 58 of the 86 countries that have yet to achieve universal primary education will not do so by the 2015 goal date. Despite progress in many areas, girls are still significantly more likely to drop out of school than boys are. Children from poorer households and from rural areas also have increased dropout rates.

It is important to note that enrollment numbers are not the only indicator of success or failure when it comes to MDG 2. There is no point in getting children to school if there are inadequate teachers or supplies, or if the learning environment is hostile. Therefore, it is vital to consider the quality of the education as well as the number of children attending school. We must ensure that teachers are trained and well equipped, and that children feel safe at school. Students that attend school on a regular basis should graduate with at least basic reading and math skills. They should also graduate on time, giving them a greater chance of attending secondary school.

Many countries have made significant progress using a variety of programs. Nine countries have increased primary school enrollment by eliminating school fees. These include Ghana, where public school enrollment in impoverished areas skyrocketed from 4.2 million to 5.4 million in 2004 alone, and Kenya, where primary school enrollment jumped by over a million students in just one year. However, abolishing school fees inevitably means less school funding, which presents challenges when it comes to providing adequate school buildings and well-trained teachers.

In Haiti, a $70,000 donation from famous soccer players Ronaldo and Zidene allowed for incredible improvements to schools in a severely impoverished area. UN agencies and NGOs partnered with the Haitian government to promote school attendance, conduct training for teachers, and provide 33 schools with necessary supplies. This positively changed the lives of 4,300 children by significantly improving the quality of their education.

Despite significant progress, 123 million youth, aged 15 to 24, still lack basic reading and writing skills. In a reflection of the persisting gender gap in primary education, 61% of these youth are female. Clearly, there is still work to be done. The UN provides several suggestions for continued efforts on this front. More funding, both from governments and from aid organizations, will be needed to achieve universal primary education by 2015. Annual aid dedicated to basic education in developing countries increased from $1.6 billion in 1999 to $5 billion in 2006, representing a step in the right direction. However, it is estimated that $11 billion will be needed annually to achieve universal primary education by 2015. These funds are needed to train teachers and to ensure that they have all the materials they need to do their job well.

In order to prevent unequal access to education based on socioeconomic status, school fees should be eliminated. At the very least, scholarships should be readily available for children from poorer families. Children should also be provided with free transportation to and from school if needed and with free meals and basic health services at school. Proper nutrition and health services will improve children’s overall well being, and these services would help reluctant children and families to see school as a worthwhile investment. An even more drastic step could be to entice low-income families with cash transfers conditional on their children’s school attendance. This could be especially useful in convincing families to educate their daughters, not just their sons.

A high quality primary school education can set children on the right track, giving them necessary skills to succeed in their personal lives and in the workplace. Primary school education has the power to break the cycle of poverty and to empower disenfranchised social groups. This makes the world’s progress towards universal primary education extremely exciting, and compels us to continue working towards this goal.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: UN Fact Sheet, UN
Photo: Pakistan Today

This is the third in a series of posts discussing the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. These are set of 8 interconnected goals agreed upon by most countries around the world based on a shared commitment to improving the political, social, and economic lives of all people. They are to be achieved by 2015 and, two years out from this deadline, it is important to celebrate all the progress we have made and to recognize the work we have left.

The third of the MDGs is to promote gender equality and embolden women. Education is the primary mode of empowerment, so the UN’s stated goal is to eliminate the gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005 and in all levels of education by 2015. The gender disparity in education is judged by statistics such as the ratio of girls to boys in all levels of education, literacy in women as compared to men, women working outside the agricultural sector, and female governmental leaders worldwide.

The gender gap in primary school has decreased substantially in recent years. In 1999, there were 16 million more girls than boys out of primary school. Over the next ten years, this number dropped dramatically to just 4 million. However, this still leaves significantly more educated boys than girls, a phenomenon that perpetuates gender inequality later in life.

According to the World Bank, equal percentages of girls and boys complete primary school in Latin America and East Asia. However, in all other developing regions, this ideal has not yet been achieved.

The significant gender gap in youth literacy rates has been shrinking in recent years. However, girls are still considerably less likely to graduate from primary school with basic literacy skills than boys. This is a concerning trend that often leads to the disempowerment of women, and perpetuation of a discriminating patriarchal societal structure.

In many countries, women have less access to stable jobs, education, economic assets, and governmental participation. They may not be allowed to work outside the home, forcing them to rely on men for their family’s income. And even when they do enter the job market, they tend to hold lower-paying positions with less job security and benefits. This represents an unacceptable inequity that must be addressed seriously. Not only does it devalue women’s work, it also means that men tend to have more influence on how the family’s money is spend, consistently minimizing women’s authority. Through extensive work toward MDG 3, women’s role in the workplace is improving, with 40% of wage-earning jobs in the non-agricultural sector held by women as of 2011.

The number of women in government is also on the rise, thanks in part to quota systems that require a certain percentage of leaders to be female. Worldwide, just over 20% of parliament members were female as of January 2013. While this still reflects a heavy bias towards men, it also represents incredible progress. In 1995, women held a meager 10% of parliamentary seats. This percentage has been steadily increasing, and progress will continue to be made if girls’ education is made an international priority.

The education of girls affects every facet of society as children grow into adults. While we have made significant progress towards gender equality, we clearly have work to do when girls do not graduate with the same basic skills that boys do and are not consistently presented with the same opportunities in the workplace and government. Educated girls become educated women that are empowered in their personal, social, political, and work lives. They demand to be treated respectfully, and are not constrained by their gender. They are strong women that can be leaders just as well as they can be wives. They are the women this world needs.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: UN, UNDP, World Bank, UN Stats
Sources: The Guardian

Poverty in Vietnam
Poverty in Vietnam still exists, but the country is a great success story. Since the beginning of political and economic reforms in 1986, Vietnam has transformed from being one of the poorest countries in the world to a lower middle-income nation. Per capita income grew from below $100 at the start of the reforms, to $1,130 by 2010. According to the World Bank, the proportion of the population in poverty has fallen from 58% in 1993 to 14.5% in 2008. Vietnam has so far attained five of its ten Millennium Development Goal targets and is working towards achieving two more by 2015.

The country has also made incredible progress in education. Primary and secondary school enrollments for the poor have reached more than 90 and 70% respectively. Rising levels of education and diversification into off-farm activities, such as working in factories, construction sites, or domestic housework have also contributed to poverty reduction.

Although Vietnam has made great progress, the country still faces challenges when tackling further poverty reduction. The prevailing poverty of the ethnic minority in Vietnam is of particular concern. Although Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minority groups make up less than 15% of the population, they accounted for almost 50% of the poor in 2010. Many continue to reside in less productive and more isolated upland regions of Vietnam.

Rising inequality in income and opportunities has also accompanied the recent economic growth and transformation. Some of the poor have limited access to high quality education, health services, and job opportunities, particularly those living in small cities or rural areas.

The Socio-Economic Development Strategy (SEDS) 2011-2012 focuses on structural reforms, social equity, environmental sustainability, and arising issues of macroeconomic stability. It defines three “breakthrough areas”: promoting human resources skills development (particularly for modern industry and innovation), improving market institutions, and infrastructure development. Vietnam aims to lay the foundations for a modern, industrialized society by 2020.

Maintaining the current pace of economic growth in Vietnam is crucial to continued poverty reduction. However, this growth must come with equity and will have to include all regions and groups in the country to become a modern, industrialized society.

– Ali Warlich 

Sources: World Bank News, World Bank Data
Photo: Asia News

The Millennium Development Goals are a set of eight targets agreed upon by almost all countries around the world. (For a more in-depth description of the MDGs, review this excellent post by Delice Williams: Overseen by the United Nations, these goals are to be reached by 2015. Two years out from this deadline, it’s important to recognize how much progress we have made, and how far we have to go. This is the first in a series of posts that will do just that, focusing on each MDG individually in order to better understand the intricacies of each one.

The first MDG states that we will eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. This goal consists of three facets:

  1. Cut the proportion of people whose income is less than $1.25/day in half between 1990 and 2015.
  2. Ensure the opportunity for full and productive employment and decent work for everyone, including women and young people
  3. Cut the proportion of people who suffer from hunger in half between 1990 and 2015

The first of these goals, to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty, was met five years ahead of schedule. This represents 700 million less people facing extreme poverty in 2010 than in 1990. Extreme poverty is falling in every region. It is incredibly encouraging to know that progress is possible everywhere, especially considering that 1.2 billion people around the world are still living in extreme poverty.

In regards to the second goal, 294 million workers have been raised out of extreme poverty as of 2011. However, this still leaves 384 million workers living on less than $1.25 per day. Progress in this area has been made in part through UN partnerships with governments that provide job training for unemployed youth in developing countries. One such program, The Youth Employment Fund, was instated in Serbia, where over 2000 young Serbs were given job training and opportunities for work.

Despite significant progress towards the second goal, a significant gender gap remains. The employment percentage was still almost 25% higher for men than for women in 2012. UN Women, a women’s rights group sponsored by the United Nations, has been working towards this goal by empowering women in the workplace, especially when it comes to food production. Women all over the world are benefiting from their programs, such as those in Timor-Leste and Rwanda. These programs include self-help groups and agricultural training, as well as financial education that gives women more sway when it comes to family financial decisions.

According the UN’s progress report, the goal of halving the proportion of hungry people around the world is within reach by 2015. In fact, 38 countries have already met this target. However, roughly 1 in 8 people worldwide still go to sleep hungry each night, and about 870 million people are still undernourished. While undernutrition is a significant problem, malnutrition affects many more people worldwide, with two billion people suffering from one or more micronutrient deficiencies.

With advancements in each of the three facets of the first MDG, we should celebrate our success. And yet, with billions of people still facing extreme poverty and hunger every day, we must continue to make progress.

This series will continue by considering the significant advancements made and work to be done in regards to the second MDG, the achievement of universal primary education.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: UN Women, UN NewsCentre, UN MDGs
Photo: Mwebantu,