2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics – 2012 World Children Hunger Facts

This fact sheet is divided into the following sections:

Hunger concepts and definitions

Hunger is a term which has three meanings (Oxford English Dictionary 1971)

  • the uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of food; craving appetite. Also the exhausted condition caused by want of food
  • the want or scarcity of food in a country
  • a strong desire or craving

World hunger refers to the second definition, aggregated to the world level. The related technical term (in this case operationalized in medicine)  is malnutrition.1

Malnutrition is a general term that indicates a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health (Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia).

There are two basic types of malnutrition. The first and most important is protein-energy malnutrition–the lack of enough protein (from meat and other sources) and food that provides energy (measured in calories) which all of the basic food groups provide. This is the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is discussed.  The second type of malnutrition, also very important, is micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency. This is not the type of malnutrition that is referred to when world hunger is discussed, though it is certainly very important.

[Recently there has also been a move to include obesity as a third form of malnutrition. Considering obesity as malnutrition expands the previous usual meaning of the term which referred to poor nutrition due to lack of food inputs.2 It is poor nutrition, but it is certainly not typically due to a lack of calories, but rather too many (although poor food choices, often due to poverty, are part of the problem). Obesity will not be considered here, although obesity is certainly a health problem and is increasingly considered as a type of malnutrition.]

Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is the most lethal form of malnutrition/hunger. It is basically a lack of calories and protein. Food is converted into energy by humans, and the energy contained in food is measured by calories.  Protein is necessary for key body functions including provision of essential amino acids and  development and maintenance of muscles.

Take a two-question hunger quiz on this section

Number of hungry people in the world

925 million hungry people in 2010

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 FAO did not publish an estimate in its most recent publication, ‘The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011’ as it is undertaking a major revision of  how it estimates food insecurity (FAO 2011 p. 10).  The 2010 estimate, the most recent, says that 925 million people were undernourished in 2010 (FAO 2010). As the figure below shows, the number of hungry people has increased since 1995-97. 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.

Number of hungry people, 1969-2010

Source: FAO

In round numbers there are 7 billion people in the world. Thus, with an estimated 925 million hungry people in the world, 13.1 percent, or almost 1 in 7 people are hungry.

The FAO estimate is based on statistical aggregates. The FAO first estimates the total food supply of a country and derives the average per capita daily food intake from that. The distribution of average food intake for people in the country is then estimated from surveys measuring food expenditure. Using this information, and minimum food energy requirements, FAO estimates how many people are likely to receive such a low level of food intake that they are undernourished.3

Undernutrition is a relatively new concept, but is increasingly used.  It should be taken as similar to malnutrition.  (It should be said as an aside, that the idea of undernourishment, its relationship to malnutrition, and the reasons for its emergence as a concept is not clear to Hunger Notes.)

Children are the most visible victims of undernutrition.  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.  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%) (Black 2003, Bryce 2005). 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 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 1 out of 6 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.

Take a three-question hunger quiz on this section

Does the world produce enough food to feed everyone?

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  according to the most recent estimate that we could find.(FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.

What are the causes of hunger?

What are the causes of hunger is a fundamental question, with varied answers.

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger. The causes of poverty include poor people’s lack of resources, an extremely unequal income distribution in the world and within specific countries, conflict, and hunger itself. As of 2008 (2005 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were an estimated 1,345 million poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less.3 This compares to the later FAO estimate of  1.02 billion undernourished people.  Extreme poverty remains an alarming problem in the world’s developing regions, despite some progress that reduced «dollar–now $1.25– a day» poverty from (an estimated) 1900 million people in 1981, a reduction of 29 percent over the period. Progress in poverty reduction has been concentrated in Asia, and especially, East Asia, with the major improvement occurring in China. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people in extreme poverty has increased.  The statement that ‘poverty is the principal cause of hunger’  is, though correct, unsatisfying.  Why then are (so many) people poor?  The next section summarizes Hunger Notes  answer.

Harmful economic systems are the principal cause of poverty and hunger. Hunger Notes believes that the principal underlying cause of poverty and hunger is the ordinary operation of the economic and political systems in the world. Essentially control over resources and income is based on military, political and economic power that typically ends up in the hands of a minority, who live well, while those at the bottom barely survive, if they do. We have described the operation of this system in more detail in our special section on Harmful economic systems

Conflict as a cause of hunger and poverty. At the end of 2005, the global number of refugees was at its lowest level in almost a quarter of a century. Despite some large-scale repatriation movements, the last three years have witnessed a significant increase in refugee numbers, due primarily to the violence taking place in Iraq and Somalia. By the end of 2008, the total number of refugees under UNHCR’s mandate exceeded 10 million. The number of conflict-induced internally displaced persons (IDPs) reached some 26 million worldwide at the end of the year . Providing exact figures on the number of stateless people is extremely difficult  But, important, (relatively) visible though it is, and anguishing for those involved conflict is less important as poverty (and its causes) as a cause of hunger. (Using the statistics above 1.02 billion people suffer from chronic hunger while 36 million people are displaced [UNHCR 2008])

Hunger is also a cause of poverty, and thus of hunger. By causing poor health, low levels of energy, and even mental impairment, hunger can lead to even greater poverty by reducing people’s ability to work and learn, thus leading to even greater hunger.

Climate change Climate change is increasingly viewed as a current and future cause of hunger and poverty. Increasing drought, flooding, and changing climatic patterns requiring a shift in crops and farming practices that may not be easily accomplished are three key issues.  See the Hunger Notes special report:  Hunger, the environment, and climate change for further information, especially articles in the section: Climate change, global warming and the effect on poor people such as Global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year, study says and Could food shortages bring down civilization?

Progress in reducing the number of hungry people

The target set at the 1996 World Food Summit was to halve the number of undernourished people by 2015 from their number in 1990-92. (FAO uses three year averages in its calculation of undernourished people.) The (estimated) number of undernourished people in developing countries  was 824 million in 1990-92. In 2010, the number had climbed to 925 million people.  The WFS goal is a global goal adopted by the nations of the world; the present outcome indicates how marginal the efforts were in face of the real need.

So, overall,  the world is not making progress toward the world food summit goal, although there has been progress in Asia, and in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Micronutrients

Quite a few  trace elements or micronutrients–vitamins and minerals–are important for health. 1 out of 3 people in developing countries are affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, according to the World Health Organization. Three, perhaps the most important in terms of health consequences for poor people in developing countries, are:

Vitamin A Vitamin A deficiency  can cause night blindness and reduces the body’s resistance to disease. In children Vitamin A deficiency can also cause growth retardation. Between 100 and 140 million children are vitamin A deficient. An estimated 250,000 to 500 000 vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight. (World Health Organization)

Iron Iron deficiency is a principal cause of anemia. Two billion people—over 30 percent of the world’s population—are anemic, mainly due to iron deficiency, and, in developing countries, frequently exacerbated by malaria and worm infections. For children, health consequences include premature birth, low birth weight, infections, and elevated risk of death. Later, physical and cognitive development are impaired, resulting in lowered school performance. For pregnant women, anemia contributes to 20 percent of all maternal deaths (World Health Organization).

Iodine Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) jeopardize children´s mental health– often their very lives. Serious iodine deficiency during pregnancy may result in stillbirths, abortions and congenital abnormalities such as cretinism, a grave, irreversible form of mental retardation that affects people living in iodine-deficient areas of Africa and Asia. IDD also causes mental impairment that lowers intellectual prowess at home, at school, and at work. IDD affects over 740 million people, 13 percent of the world’s population. Fifty million people have some degree of mental impairment caused by IDD (World Health Organization).

(Updated December 4,  2011)

Footnotes

1. The relation between hunger, malnutrition, and other terms such as undernutrition is not ‘perfectly clear,’ so we have attempted to spell them out briefly in «World Hunger Facts.»

2. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary (1971 edition) has ‘insufficient nutrition’ as the only meaning for malnutrition.

3. For  discussions of measuring hunger see Califero 2011,  Headey 2011 and Masset, in press.

4. The table  used to calculate this number.

Region % in  $1.25 a day poverty Population (millions) Pop. in $1 a day poverty (millions)
East Asia and Pacific 16.8 1,884 316
Latin America and the Caribbean  8.2 550 45
South Asia 40.4 1,476 596
Sub-Saharan Africa 50.9 763 388
  Total Developing countries 28,8 4673 1345
Europe and Central Asia 0.04 473 17
Middle East and North Africa 0.04 305 11
Total 5451 1372

Source:  See World Bank PovcalNet «Replicate the World Bank’s Regional Aggregation» at http://iresearch.worldbank.org/PovcalNet/povDuplic.html  (accessed May 7, 2010).  Also see World Bank «PovcalNet» at http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/EXTRESEARCH/EXTPROGRAMS/EXTPOVRES/EXTPOVCALNET/0,,contentMDK:21867101~pagePK:64168427~piPK:64168435~theSitePK:5280443,00.html

Bibliography

Black RE, Morris SS, Bryce J. «Where and why are 10 million children dying every year?» Lancet. 2003 Jun 28;361(9376):2226-34.

Black, Robert E, Lindsay H Allen, Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Laura E Caulfield, Mercedes de Onis, Majid Ezzati, Colin Mathers, Juan Rivera, for the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. (Article access may require registration) The Lancet  Vol. 371, Issue 9608, 19 January 2008, 243-260.

Jennifer Bryce, Cynthia Boschi-Pinto, Kenji Shibuya, Robert E. Black, and the WHO Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group. 2005. «WHO estimates of the causes of death in childrenLancet ; 365: 1147–52.

Cafiero, Carlo and Pietro Gennari. 2011. The FAO indicator of the prevalence of undernourishment FAO

Caulfield LE, de Onis M, Blössner M, Black RE. Undernutrition as an underlying cause of child deaths associated with diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, and measles. American Journal of  Clinical Nutrition 2004; 80: 193–98.

Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion.  June 2004. «How have the world’s poorest fared since the early 1980s?» World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 3341 Washington: World Bank.

de Onis, Mercedes, Edward A. Frongillo and Monika Blossner. 2000. «Is malnutrition declining? An analysis of changes in levels of child malnutrition since 1980Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2000, : 1222–1233.

Food and Agriculture Organization, International Fund for Agricultural Development, World Food Program. 2002 «Reducing Poverty and Hunger, the Critical Role of Financing for Food, Agriculture, and Rural Development

Food and Agriculture Organization. 2006. State of World Food Insecurity 2006

Food and Agriculture Organization. 2010. The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2010 http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1683e/i1683e.pdf

Food and Agriculture Organization. 2011. «The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2011» http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1683e/i1683e.pdf

Headey, Derek. 2011. “Was the Global Food Crisis Really a Crisis? Simulations versus Self-Reporting”, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01087.  

International Food Policy Research Institute. 2010. 2010 Global Hunger Index

Masset, Edoardo. 2011 In Press. A review of hunger indices and methods to monitor country commitment to fighting hunger Food Policy.

Oxford University Press. 1971. Oxford English Dictionary. Definition for malnutrition.

Pelletier DL, Frongillo EA Jr, Schroeder D, Habicht JP. The effects of malnutrition on child mortality in developing countries. Bulletin of the  World Health Organization 1995; 73: 443–48.

United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. 2007.  Statistical Yearbook 2006 «Main Findings»

UNHCR 2008 Global Report 2008 «The Year in Review» http://www.unhcr.org/4a2d0b1d2.pdf

World Bank.  Understanding Poverty website

World Health Organization Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Childhood and Maternal Undernutition

SOURCE: World Hunger Education Service,

http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm

————————————————-

World Child Hunger Facts

Children suffer most from hunger, also referred to as malnutrition or undernutrition. Their mothers also suffer greatly from malnutrition, which affects the child before birth. There are two basic types of malnutrition. The first and most important is protein—energy malnutrition—the lack of enough protein (from meat and other sources) and food that provides energy (measured in calories) which all of the basic food groups provide. This is the type of malnutrition referred to when world hunger is discussed. The second type of malnutrition is micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiency. This is not the type of malnutrition referred to when world hunger is discussed, though it is certainly very important.

The meaning of hunger and its measurement in children

Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), in some degree, is essentially what is meant by hunger.  Protein-energy malnutrition is basically a lack of calories and protein. Food is converted into energy by humans, and the energy contained in food is measured by calories.  Protein is necessary for key body functions including provision of essential amino acids and  development and maintenance of muscles.

Undernutrition in children appears in three ways, and it is most commonly assessed through the measurement of weight and height.  A child can be too short for his or her age (stunted), have low weight for his or her height (wasted), or have low weight for his or her age (underweight).  A child who is underweight can also be stunted or wasted or both  (UNICEF 2009, p. 13).

Stunting. Stunting affects approximately 195 million children under 5 years old in the developing world, or about one in three.  Africa and Asia have high stunting rates—40 percent and 36 percent, respectively—and more than 90 percent of the world’s stunted children live on these two continents.(UNICEF 2009, pp. 15–19).

Wasting. Children who suffer from wasting face a markedly increased chance of death.  According to UNICEF, 13 percent of children under 5 years old in the developing world are wasted, and 5 percent are extremely wasted, an estimated 26 million children (UNICEF 2009, p. 20).

Underweight. UNICEF estimates that 129 million children under 5 years old in the developing world are underweight–nearly one in four.   Ten percent of children in the developing world are severely underweight.  The prevalence of underweight is higher in Asia than in Africa, with rates of 27 percent and 21 percent, respectively.  (UNICEF 2009, p. 17).

Other key facts about child hunger and mortality

The estimated number of childhood deaths in 2010 was 7.6 million. Since 1990 the golobal under-five mortality rate has dropped 35 percent—from 88 deaths per 1000 live births in 1990 to 57 in 2010. The highest rates of child mortality are still in Sub-Saharan Africawhere 1 in 8 children dies before age 5, more than 17 times the average for developed regions (1 in 43)—and Southern Asia (1 in 15).  Under-five deaths are increasingly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.

Poor nutrition plays a role in at least half of the 7.6 million child deaths each year.  (UNICEF 2008, p 1). Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year.  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%) (Black 2003, Bryce et al. 2005).   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.

In developing countries, almost one out of every 15 children will die before they reach the age of five (derived from UNICEF 2008 Summary table 1 p. 117 and also from UNICME p. 6 Table 1).

The main cause of child hunger is poverty. Extreme poverty remains an alarming problem in the world’s developing countries, despite some progress that reduced «dollar—now $1.25—a day» poverty from (an estimated) 1900 million people in 1981 to an estimated 1,345 million poor people in 2005 (World Bank 2008), a reduction of 29 percent over the period. Two significant, but less important, causes are conflict, often euphemistically referred to as a ‘man-made disaster’  and natural disasters such as droughts and floods. Both conflict and natural disasters as causes of hunger occur almost exclusively in poor countries.

Poverty causes other aspects of children’s poor health, not only their hunger, increasing the impact of both hunger and other types of poor health..  To take a key example,  poor children live in urban slums or in poor agricultural communities without sewers or other sanitation facilities for removal of human and animal excrement or garbage removal. This lack of sanitation can cause sickness, and also, by contaminating the the water supply, cause further sickness.  From these sources, children get diarrhea, to name just one important cause of illness.  Diarrhea keeps children from getting enough nutrients from their food and thus is an important cause of hunger, especially wasting.

Hunger is also a cause of poverty. By causing poor health, low levels of energy, and even mental impairment, hunger, especially in childhood, can lead to even greater poverty by reducing people’s ability to work and learn.

Micronutrients

Quite a few  trace elements or micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—are important for health. One out of three people in developing countries are affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies, according to the World Health Organization. Three micronutrients, perhaps the most important in terms of health consequences for poor people in developing countries, are:

Vitamin A Vitamin A deficiency  can cause night blindness and reduces the body’s resistance to disease. In children Vitamin A deficiency can also cause growth retardation. Between 100 and 140 million children are vitamin A deficient. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 Vitamin A-deficient children become blind every year, half of them dying within 12 months of losing their sight. (World Health Organization.)

Iron Iron deficiency is a principal cause of anemia. Two billion people—over 30 percent of the world’s population—are anemic, mainly due to iron deficiency, and, in developing countries, frequently exacerbated by malaria and worm infections. For children, health consequences include premature birth, low birth weight, infections, and elevated risk of death. Later, physical and cognitive development are impaired, resulting in lowered school performance. For pregnant women, anemia contributes to 20 percent of all maternal deaths (World Health Organization).

Iodine Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) jeopardize children’s mental health—often their very lives. Serious iodine deficiency during pregnancy may result in stillbirths, abortions and congenital abnormalities such as cretinism, a grave, irreversible form of mental retardation that affects people living in iodine-deficient areas of Africa and Asia. IDD also causes mental impairment that lowers intellectual prowess at home, at school, and at work. IDD affects over 740 million people, 13 percent of the world’s population. Fifty million people have some degree of mental impairment caused by IDD (World Health Organization).

Updated September 2, 2012

Bibliography

Black RE, Morris SS, Bryce J. 2003. «Where and why are 10 million children dying every year?» Lancet.  Jun 28;361(9376):2226-34.

Black, Robert E, Lindsay H Allen, Zulfiqar A Bhutta, Laura E Caulfield, Mercedes de Onis, Majid Ezzati, Colin Mathers, Juan Rivera, for the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group. 2008. Maternal and child undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. (Article access may require registration) The Lancet  Vol. 371, Issue 9608, 19 January, 243-260.

Jennifer Bryce, Cynthia Boschi-Pinto, Kenji Shibuya, Robert E. Black, and the WHO Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group. 2005. «WHO estimates of the causes of death in childrenLancet ; 365: 1147–52.

Caulfield LE, de Onis M, Blössner M, Black RE. 2004. Undernutrition as an underlying cause of child deaths associated with diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, and measles. American Journal of  Clinical Nutrition ; 80: 193–98.

de Onis, Mercedes,Edward A. Frongillo and Monika Blossner. 2000. «Is malnutrition declining? An analysis of changes in levels of child malnutrition since 1980Bulletin of the World Health Organization  1222–1233.

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). 2010. 2010 Global Hunger Index (56 page PDF file)  See especially Chapter 3.

Pelletier DL, Frongillo EA Jr, Schroeder D, Habicht JP. 1995. The effects of malnutrition on child mortality in developing countries.. Bulletin of the  World Health Organization 73(4) 443–48.

UNICEF. 2008. The State of the World’s Children 2008: Women and Children – Child Survival  New York

UNICEF. 2009. Tracking progress on child and maternal nutrition: A survival and development priority. New York (124 page PDF file)

United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UNICME). 2011. «Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2011» (24 page PDF file) http://www.childinfo.org/files/Child_Mortality_Report_2011.pdf

World Health Organization Comparative Quantification of Health Risks: Childhood and Maternal Undernutition

Learn About Hunger Page Hunger Notes Home Page

SOURCE:

http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/child_hunger_facts.htm

4 Σχόλια to “2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics – 2012 World Children Hunger Facts”

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