World hunger figures: nothing to celebrate for Post-2015


During 2014, millions of people will say or write that we are 842 million hungry people in this planet, thanks to the FAO world hunger figures, still the main reference worldwide. The FAO State of Food Insecurity report is a good document by several reasons, the best of its kind so far, as it is rather informative and well designed and it provides the complete database that feeds the report analysis and it has embraced an ample set of indicators related to food and nutrition security. It is no longer “an FAO report dealing with undernourishment”, but the most comprehensive UN on world hunger. Each year the SOFI gets better, and the incorporation of IFAD and WFP to the editorial board reinforces its impact. Nowadays, despite growing competition from other SOFI-like reports, namely IFPRI´s Global Hunger Index and The Economist´s Global Food Security Index and the widespread criticism about the outdated data and fuzzy methodology, FAO-WFP-IFAD SOFI report remains as THE reference on hunger figures in the world.

Another general remark I would like to underline relates to global figures and the MDGs. One could note that the MDG Goal 1 on hunger is 200 million less ambitious than the World Food Summit (WFS) Goal, just by changing the wording “halving the number of hungry people” by “halving the proportion of hungry people”. Along those lines, and considering the reviewed global statistics undertaken by FAO (the official accountant of the MDG 1 on hunger), we are 842 million hungry people in this planet (12%) and the MDG Goal for 2015 is 9.5% (half the rate of 1990, 18.9%). According to those statistics, the world has progressed in hunger reduction by curtailing only 7% in 23 years so it is impossible to reach 9.5% of world hunger by 2015. That would mean to reduce 2.5% in only two years. So, we´ll fail in one of the most relevant global goals.

The second issue is this strong emphasis on the idea that “we are on track”, instead of recognizing that we lag behind and we didn´t do enough. We seem to be celebrating that we are so close…How could we celebrate such an achievement that leaves so many people hungry (842 at present and no less than 800 million by 2015), when the WFS goal (endorsed by all states in 1996) was to reach 498 million by 2015? The new 2000 deal saved 200 million people from the world goal, what rendered it more achievable. Even doing that…we will not get there.

Will the political and economic boost be so terrific the next two years that we may triple the hunger reduction rate? Well, I have serious doubts, as many other people have. So, we will not reach the MDG, no matter how unambitiously it was reconceived in 2000. In any case, just to end in positive terms, we have achieved an impressive progress and more than 60 countries will actually reach the half-hunger goal (in percentage) and more than 40 the half-hunger goal in absolute terms. And that is a tremendous progress for those countries and their citizens. 

But no hunger goal will be just but a zero hunger goal. 

Three post-data:

1.- What about considering food as a commons or a public good instead of a purely private good?

2.- What about a Universal Food Coverage for everybody with a minimum amount of food every day? as we have for health, education or water.

3.- What about a binding international Food Treaty to give pre-eminence to the right to food over the right to free market?