No one really knows how many people are malnourished. The statistic most frequently cited is that of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which measures ‘undernutrition’. The most recent estimate, released in October 2010 by Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation (FAO), stated that 925 million people are undernourished.
The number of hungry people has increased since 1995-97, though the number is down from 2009. The increase has been due to three factors: 1) neglect of agriculture relevant to very poor people by governments and international agencies; 2) the current worldwide economic crisis, and 3) the significant increase of food prices in the last several years which has been devastating to those with only a few dollars a day to spend 925 million people is 13.6 percent of the estimated world population of 6.8 billion. Nearly all of the undernourished are in developing countries.
In round numbers there are seven billion people in the world. Thus, with an estimated 925 million hungry people in the world, 13.1 percent, or almost one in seven people are hungry.
The FAO estimate is based on statistical aggregates. It looks at a country’s income level and income distribution and uses this information to estimate how many people receive such a low level of income that they are malnourished.
Children are the most visible victims of under nutrition. Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year. Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 10.9 million child deaths each year—five million deaths.
Under nutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which under nutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%).
Malnutrition can also be caused by diseases, such as the diseases that cause diarrhea, by reducing the body’s ability to convert food into usable nutrients.
According to the most recent estimate that Hunger Notes could find, malnutrition, as measured by stunting, affects 32.5 percent of children in developing countries—one of three (de Onis 2000). Geographically, more than 70 percent of malnourished children live in Asia, 26 percent in Africa and four (4) percent in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In many cases, their plight began even before birth with a malnourished mother. Under-nutrition among pregnant women in developing countries leads to one out of six infants born with low birth weight. This is not only a risk factor for neonatal deaths, but also causes learning disabilities, mental, retardation, poor health, blindness and premature death.
The World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics reveals that the world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day.
The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.
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