World hungry drop to one in eight people: UN food agency

ROME (AFP) - The number of world hungry has dropped to one in eight people, making the goal of halving hunger by 2015 possible despite continued problems in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, the UN food agency said on Tuesday.

At the global level, 842 million people - 12 percent of the world's population - did not have enough food for an active and healthy life, down from 868 million for the period 2010 to 2012.

The Rome-based Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) said it now appeared possible to attain the United Nations Millenium Development Goal of halving world hunger from its 1990 level by 2015.

A FAO report said the main reasons were higher economic growth in developing countries, an increase in farm productivity rates and more private and public investments in agriculture.

It also said that remittances from emigrants, which have risen to three times higher than development aid globally, were helping improve diets in countries like Bangladesh and Tajikistan.

"With a final push in the next couple of years, we can still reach the MDG target," FAO director Jose Graziano da Silva said, along with the heads of the UN rural poverty and UN food aid agencies.

"Policies aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and increasing food availability, especially when smallholders are targeted, can achieve hunger reduction even where poverty is widespread," they said in the report.

The report said 62 countries have already reached the target of halving the proportion of hunger.

Despite overall progress, marked differences across regions persist, the report said.

"Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with more than one in five people estimated to be undernourished," it found.

Sub-Saharan Africa is currently performing the worst on the hunger scale, though there has been some improvement over the last two decades, with hunger declining from 32.7 percent to 24.8 percent.

In terms of numbers rather than percentages, Southern Asia had the highest number of undernourished people - 295 million - followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 223 million and Eastern Asia with 167 million, the report said.