How Many Hungry Persons Are There?

The FAO hunger portal gives this summary of the number of hungry persons in the world. The table gives the period of data collection, the number of undernourished persons, and the percent of the world population at the time.

2006-2008	850 million	13%
2000-2002 836 million 14%
1995-1997 792 million 14%
1990-1992 848 million 16%
1979-1981 853 million 21%
1969-1971 878 million 26%

Notice that the percent has decreased substantially from 1970 to 1980. A decrease of 5-points from 26% to 21% is a decrease of 5/26 or 19% less. From 1980 to 1991, the decrease was another 5-points, but this time 5/21 is 23.8% less. So a great deal of progress was made in battling hunger in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

But from 1991 to 2001, the decrease was only 2-points, for 2/16 or 12.5% less. From 1996 to 2007, an overlapping period of time, the decrease was only 1-point for 1/14 or 7% less. What happened in the 1990’s and 2000’s to slow the progress against hunger?

Another way of looking at the numbers is to consider the discrete number of hungry persons. On this score, we have not done well at all. From a mid-point of 835 million hungry, the total has not varied more than 43 million more or less in over 30 years. The progress in percentages shows in discrete numbers from 1969 to 1997. But as the percentages flatten out, the discrete numbers actually rose. The battle against hunger is not keeping pace with the world population growth.

Here is a chart from, using FAO data, which includes some more recent estimates of the number of hungry. The FAO hunger portal does not list the numbers for 2009 and 2010, perhaps because they are more approximate numbers.

As you can see, there is a specific number for 2008 (rather than the range of years) at 915 million hungry, then a sharp jump to 1020 million (1.02 billion) hungry in 2009, and down to 925 million in 2010. There was no estimate of the number of hungry in the world for the 2011 FAO Hunger Report.


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