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ROME — The estimated number of chronically hungry people in the world has dipped considerably below the 1 billion mark, thanks to good harvests and a drop in food prices from the spikes that sparked rioting just a few years ago, according to figures released Tuesday by the United Nations.
Still, the estimated total of 925 million undernourished people, most of them in Asia and Africa, is "unacceptably high" and well above UN goals to dramatically reduce the number of hungry mouths on the planet, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said.
Just a year ago, UN food agencies estimated that 1.02 billion people on
the planet were undernourished. The lower estimate for this year,
especially in light of population growth in the meantime, largely
reflects progress China and India have made in feeding their people.
More than 40 percent of the world's undernourished live in China or
India. Overall, two-thirds of the chronically undernourished live in
those two countries or in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, the
Democratic Republic of Congo or Ethiopia, the report said.
That hundreds of millions of people are still undernourished despite
lofty goals promoted at UN-sponsored gatherings and other international
appointments '"indicates a deeper structural problem that gravely
threatens the ability to achieve internationally agreed goals on hunger
reduction," the report concluded.
UN officials are trying to galvanize nations into making greater
progress toward a Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion
of undernourished people in developing countries from 20 percent in
1990-92 to 10 percent in 2015.
If the 2010 estimate of 925 holds, the proportion of the hungry would have been reduced to 16 percent by this year.
Income growth in developing countries is helping chip away at the numbers of undernourished people, the FAO report said.
Nature has helped, too.
"International and domestic cereal prices have declined from their 2008
peaks, reflecting two consecutive years of record yields," the report
said. "While production in 2010 is forecast to be lower, the overall
supply situation is considered as adequate."