Global Chronic Hunger Rises Above 1 Billion

Stephanie Pappas | Apr 08, 2010

In 2009, an estimated 1.02 billion people were classified as undernourished, 12 percent more than in 2008.1 This means nearly one in six people on Earth suffers from undernourishment.2 Undernourishment—or chronic hunger—is defined as regularly eating food that provides less than 1,800 kilocalories (kcal) a day.3 In comparison, Americans, Canadians, and Europeans on average consume food that provides more than 3,400 kcal per day.4

Chronic hunger is only one aspect of malnutrition, a broad term for a multitude of conditions that hinder good health.5 Malnutrition also includes overnutrition, which is eating more food than needed to meet energy requirements, and undernutrition, which is low levels of food intake or low absorption of food that is consumed. Generally, undernutrition applies to protein and fat deficiencies, but it is increasingly also being used to indicate a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Three billion people suffer from chronic micronutrient deficiencies, lacking adequate amounts of iron, iodine, and other important micronutrients in their diets.6

The 2009 Global Hunger Index (GHI) prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute has fallen by one quarter since 1990.7 The GHI analyzes several dimensions of hunger, including the proportion of undernourished in the population, the prevalence of undernourished children, and the rate of child mortality.8 These data, however, are only tallied for 2002 to 2007 and do not include the impact of the recent food and economic crises.

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