Developing strategies to end hunger
 

New U.N. Report: Closer to Hunger Goal than We Thought

Hunger Goal Within Reach

Chart from 2013 MDGs Report reveals that the hunger reduction target is within reach if recent slowdowns in progress can be reversed. (Image Credit: UNDP)

Today in Geneva, Switzerland, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) released its most recent update on the world’s progress toward the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets—the 2013 Millennium Development Goals Report. The eight MDGs, set in 2000, have led an ambitious global effort to improve the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people by 2015. With 912 days left (by our watch) to meet the MDGs, the report comes at a crucial time.

The most pronounced victories in the report are that the MDG targets on halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty and increasing access to clean water have been met. These accomplishments are heartening, though we've known about them for a while now. The fulfillment of the poverty goal was already announced last year by the World Bank, based on data from 2010.

Arguably the real news from this year's report is that the world has advanced further than previously thought on cutting in half the proportion of people who are undernourished. Even one year ago, many were doubtful that the goal could be met, particularly because of the setbacks brought on by the global economic downturn and the resulting food price crisis of 2008,  believed to have pushed the number of hungry people over 1 billion for the first time.

But according to the U.N.’s latest numbers, we’re closer than we thought. While hunger remains disturbingly common, the proportion of undernourished people has decreased from 23.2 percent of the total population in 1990–1992 to 14.9 percent in 2010–2012. This suggests that progress in reducing hunger has been more pronounced than previously believed.

In the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, published in late 2012, we at Bread for the World Institute expressed concern about the world’s ability to realistically meet the hunger goal:

At this point, it is not clear whether the hunger target of the MDGs will be met by the 2015 deadline. Too little attention has been paid to the interrelationship between hunger and poverty, particularly in rural areas where most of the world’s hungry and poor people live…Since the MDGs were adopted, both developing country governments and aid donors have increased their investments in agriculture and rural development—but not soon enough and not by enough to accelerate reductions in hunger.

The hunger goal’s prospects look better today than they did a year ago, but the concerns raised last year remain valid. Just as with progrss on poverty, progress on hunger has not been equally shared across geographic regions. Rates of undernutrition in East Asia and Latin America continue to fall rapidly, while those of South Asia, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa — rural areas in particular — remain stubbornly inflated.  Sustained, targeted investments in rural development by donor countries, such as the Obama administration’s recently evaluated Feed the Future initiative, will be needed. Reaching the often-overlooked MDG 8, which stresses the establishment of true global partnerships for development, will only grow more crucial as the world stretches to reach the hunger target by 2015.

To read more on the history hunger and poverty goal and the seven other MDGs, visit www.hungerreport.org. 

Derek Schwabe

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