Who are the hungry?
Most of the world’s hungry live in developing countries. According to the latest Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics, there are 925 million hungry people in the world and 98 percent of them are in developing countries. They are distributed like this:
578 million in Asia and the Pacific
265 million in Sub-Saharan Africa
53 million in Latin America and the Caribbean
42 million in the Near East and North Africa
Three-quarters of all hungry people live in rural areas, mainly in the villages of Asia and Africa. Overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture for their food, these populations have no alternative source of income or employment. As a result, they are vulnerable to crises. Many migrate to cities in their search for employment, swelling the ever-expanding populations of shanty towns in developing countries.
FAO calculates that 75 percent of the hungry people in developing countries, half are farming families, surviving off marginal lands prone to natural disasters like drought or flood. One in five belongs to landless families dependent on farming and about 10 percent live in communities whose livelihoods depend on herding, fishing or forest resources.
The remaining 25 percent live in shanty towns on the periphery of the biggest cities in developing countries. The numbers of poor and hungry city dwellers are rising rapidly along with the world’s total urban population.
An estimated 146 million children in developing countries are underweight – the result of acute or chronic hunger (Source: The State of the World’s Children, UNICEF, 2009). This means that 25 percent of all hungry people are children. All too often, child hunger is inherited: up to 17 million children are born underweight annually, the result of inadequate nutrition before and during pregnancy.
Women are the world’s primary food producers, yet cultural traditions and social structures often mean women are much more affected by hunger and poverty than men. A mother who is stunted or underweight due to an inadequate diet often give birth to low birthweight children.
Around 50 per cent of pregnant women in developing countries are iron deficient (source: Unicef). Lack of iron means 315,000 women die annually from hemorrhage at childbirth. As a result, women, and in particular expectant and nursing mothers, often need special or increased intake of food.