The loss of human life [due to hunger] is as great as if an atomic bomb – similar to the one that destroyed Hiroshima during the Second World War – were dropped on a densely populated area every three days

Womenaid Press release on Hunger


Number and percentage of undernourished persons:

  • 2005-2007: 848 million (13%)
  • 2000-2002: 833 million (14%)
  • 1995-1997: 788 million (14%)
  • 1990-1992: 843 million (16%)
  • 1979-1981: 853 million (21%)
  • 1969-1971: 878 million (26%)

Hunger is the world’s number one health risk. It kills more people every year than AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.

One in seven people in the world will go to bed hungry tonight.

One in four children in developing countries are underweight.

There are more hungry people in the world than the combined populations of USA, Canada and the European Union.

925 million people do not have enough to eat. 98% of these people live in the developing world.

Asia and the Pacific region is home to over half the world’s population and nearly two thirds of the world’s hungry people.

Women make up a little over half of the world’s population, but they account for over 60% of the world’s hungry.

65% of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Hunger: some definitions

Hunger is a condition in which people lack sufficient nutrients (energy, protein, vitamins and minerals for fully productive, active and healthy lifestyles. It can be both a short-term and long-term problem with wide ranging effects from mild (lack of energy, tiredness) to severe (starvation, weakened immune systems, death).

There are 3 main forms of hunger: acute, chronic and hidden. Each form has a different underlying cause:

  • Acute hunger is the most extreme form of malnourishment. In this case, death is a pressing reality. Although the image of people who are acutely hungry is what we see mostly on television and in advertising campaigns, less than 8% of the world’s hungry fall within this category – emergency situations.
  • Chronic hunger is the most widespread form of malnourishment is characterised by a constant lack of, or insufficient amount of quality food, further perpetuated by a lack of basic healthcare. The causes of chronic hunger are responsible for the majority of child mortality related to nutritional factors.
  • Hidden hunger affects over 2 billion people worldwide. It results from a poor quality diet – lack of food with vitamins and nutrients – and is very difficult to detect as many of those affected consume enough calories and proteins.

FACT: It is estimated that in 2010, 925 million people will suffer from hunger globally due to the sudden spike in global food prices and the on-set of the world-wide economic crisis. (

FACT: In 2008, nearly 9 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. One third of these deaths were due directly or indirectly to hunger or malnutrition. (

FACT: The majority of hungry live in developing countries, but hunger also occurs in the industrialised world. Asia and the Pacific is home to the largest number of hungry, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of hungry, with one in three people being undernourished.

In 2010:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa had 239 million hungry people
  • Asia and the Pacific had 578 million
  • Latin America and the Caribbean had 53 million
  • Near East and North Africa had 37 million
  • Developed countries had 19 million


Malnutrition: refers to improper/inappropriate consumption of food – not just inadequate consumption. It occurs when people’s diets do not provide adequate nutrients for growth and maintenance of health. Malnutrition includes being underweight for one’s age, dangerously thin for one’s height and/or deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. Malnutrition traditionally affects the poor, but it is not just a problem among the poor.

FACT: In countries with high levels of childhood malnutrition, the economic loss can be as high as 2-3% of GDP. (

Under-nutrition: is a condition resulting from inadequate consumption of calories, nutrients and/or protein the body needs to meet the basic physical requirements for an active and healthy life. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations defines under-nutrition as less than 2100 kcal per day. Over-nutrition exists also and is due excessive consumption, possibly due to low levels of physical activity also.

FACT: The FAO estimates that globally, 925 million people were undernourished in 2010. While this figure marks an improvement compared to 2009, it remains unacceptably high. (

Food Insecurity: is the physical or uncertain availability of food or inability to acquire safe and nutritious food. This can also mean a lack of social or economic access to food also. Food Security: is assured access for every person to enough nutritious food to sustain an active and healthy life, including food availability (adequate food supply), food access (people can get food), and appropriate food use (the body’s absorption of essential nutrients.

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