From the Field

5 world hunger facts you need to know

Around the world, 690 million people regularly go to bed hungry, according to a report from the United Nations food agencies. The State of Food Insecurity and Nutrition in the World 2020 — released by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization — reports that the number of people affected by hunger in the world continues to increase.

Here are the facts you should know about global hunger and nutrition:

1. World hunger is on the rise.

How many people are hungry in the world? Globally, about 8.9% of the world’s population — 690 million people — go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Since 2014, the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise. If it continues at this rate, it’ll exceed 840 million by 2030.

2. The world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for hunger.

The hunger Sustainable Development Goal calls for ending hunger in the world by 2030. Unfortunately — with world hunger on the rise — this goal will likely not be met, even without considering the effects of COVID-19. Estimates suggest that an additional 83 million to 132 million more people will be chronically hungry due to the pandemic.

3. Some regions have a higher proportion of malnourished people than others.

Sub-Saharan Africa is still the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, estimated at 22% of the population. This is expected to increase to 29.4% by 2030. The Caribbean also has a high rate — 16.6% of its population. Compare this to North America and Europe, where less than 2.5% of people are malnourished.

4. Although poverty reduction efforts have paid off in achieving better access to food in developing countries, a healthy diet still is out of reach for the world’s poor.

Extreme poverty rates fell from nearly 36% in 1990 to 9.2% in 2017. However, having the economic means to access nutritious food is also affected by food prices and people’s purchasing power, which have both varied widely in recent years. With a healthy diet costing more than the international poverty line of $1.90 a day, it remains unaffordable for people living in extreme poverty. For example, across sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia, about 57% of the population is unable to afford a healthy diet.

The COVID-19 pandemic also threatens to reverse decades of progress in the fight against global poverty. While the full impact is unknown, the World Bank estimates that an additional 88 million to 115 million people will fall into extreme poverty in 2020, with the total rising to as many as 150 million by 2021.

5. National economic growth doesn’t necessarily mean better nourishment for all.

In India, for example, the economy has experienced high growth in the last decade. But the most recent data shows that 189.2 million people, about 14% of the population, remain undernourished. In many other countries, the income gap between the haves and have-nots has widened.

Development programs that empower the poor to be healthier, better educated, and able to provide a stable income are vital to food security. So are community-based courses in which mothers learn to feed children food that will help them grow up healthy and strong.

World Vision’s programs that assist families with agriculture and microfinance for business development also improve food security.


Chris Huber and Sevil Omer of World Vision’s U.S. staff contributed to this article.


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At a World Vision-supported facility in South Sudan, a healthcare worker wearing a blue mask, black T-shirt, and brown vest measures the mid-upper arm circumference of a toddler’s left arm for malnutrition. The armband shows red, indicating the boy is severely malnourished. The child sits on his mother’s lap, and she looks at him wearily and intently.
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