9 Things You Should Know About World Hunger

This weekend many churches will observe their annual World Hunger Sunday, and next week (October 16) is World Food Day, a worldwide event designed to increase awareness, understanding and informed, year‐around action to alleviate hunger. Here are nine things you need to know about one of the world’s most persistent, but solvable, global problems.

1. World hunger refers to the want or scarcity of food in a country, aggregated to the world level. The related technical terms (e.g., those used in medicine) are malnutrition or undernutrition, both of which indicate a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health.

2. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 1 in 8 people in the world do not get enough food to lead an active and healthy life. Over 800 million worldwide — equal to the population of the U.S. and the 28 member states of the European Union — are hungry.

3. Asia has the largest share of the world’s hungry people (some 552 million), but Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment with one in four Africans (24.8 per cent) estimated to be hungry.

4. Hunger and malnutrition are the greatest threats to global health—more so than even AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

5. 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.

6. Undernutrition magnifies the effect of every disease, including measles and malaria. The estimated proportions of deaths in which undernutrition is an underlying cause are roughly similar for diarrhea (61%), malaria (57%), pneumonia (52%), and measles (45%).

7. One in four of the world’s children are stunted (below the fifth percentile of the reference population in height for age). In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three. 80 percent of the world’s stunted children live in just 20 countries.

8. The world currently produces enough food for everyone on the planet to have at least 2,720 calories per person per day (the equivalent of 13.5 cups of rice). The number of calories each person needs every day varies depending on age and activity level, but the recommended average is 2,500 calories for men and 2,000 calories for women.

9. According to the U.N. hunger report, economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction. But growth may not lead to more and better jobs and incomes for all, unless policies specifically target the poor, especially those in rural areas. “In poor countries, hunger and poverty reduction will only be achieved with growth that is not only sustained, but also broadly shared,” the report noted. Still, continued economic growth in developing countries has improved incomes and access to food. Recent pick-up in agricultural productivity growth, supported by increased public investment, and renewed interest of private investors in agriculture, has improved food availability.


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  • Kevin C

    Joe, can you share some links that would serve as sources for learning about global hunger?

  • Brian

    We need to find ways to provide the hungry with nourishment, without just dumping tons of food in the desert and hoping it finds the hungry people. Thousands of tons of donated foods spoil due to the inefficient processes used by relief organizations and the time it takes to get donated foods to remote areas. Local agriculture (where possible) and economic empowerment will allow for some of these groups to become more self-sufficient, and less dependent upon unreliable aid.

  • Simeon O

    A note to the author. When you talk about the calorie intake you use 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. Most Americans do not understand that in this case (from your source) the comma is actually a period so it would be 2.720 kilocalories or 2,720 calories.

    • Joe Carter

      Thanks, that’s now corrected.

  • http://textsincontext.wordpress.com Michael Snow

    “According to the U.N. hunger report, economic growth is key for progress in hunger reduction.”

    This is the same U.N. pushing the ‘global warming’ agenda (like Pres. Obama) that will severely hamper growth in the poorest countries by pushing energy prices up in the ‘fight’ against “pollution” i.e. CO2 that essential for life.
    Keep informed. http://wattsupwiththat.com/

  • Matt

    Joe, where was this picture taken?

    • Joe Carter

      The only source I could find says the child is from Gaza.

  • http://theorant.com Billy Kangas

    Best source for hunger information?

  • http://www.kamillaludwig.com Kamilla


    An excellent reminder. Thank you.

    I would just add somewhere in points #8/9 about the role of corrupt govenments in preventing food aid from reaching people in need as well corrupt governance (such as the thug Mugabe in Zimbabwe) destroying a country’s ability to feed its own people.

  • http://scottborg.myadventures.org/ Scott


    Profound information written in a concise manner. With our ministry in Swaziland we serve 5800 of those 800 million. I wanted to ask you if I could re-post your article in my blog (small readership maybe 300 people). I’d give the first paragraph to promote your blog and the work of the Gospel Coalition with links to thegospelcoalition.org. It helps me to reference others in my ongoing task to challenge and mobilize people to the cause of poverty.

  • http://notyetwhatweshallbe.wordpress.com Alison

    Thanks for the post – good reminders in general.

    I’m confused about #7 though – do you have a source for this? It doesn’t seem possible for 25% of children to be below the 5th percentile in height – at that point it would no longer be the 5th percentile but the 25th.

    • Bruce

      Allison, good observation about the data. The World Health Organization developed standard growth charts, and they sampled children in areas where children were generally healthy. So, the growth charts are percentiles for kids in healthy environments. Malnourished children are intentionally excluded from “normal” growth measurements.


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