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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – World Hunger Up, UN Study Says - 2003-12-07

Broadcast: December 8, 2003

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says world hunger has increased. The agency released its newest estimates in a report called “The State of Food Insecurity in the World Two-thousand-three.”

Researchers say world hunger had dropped by thirty-seven million people during the early part of the nineteen-nineties. In the second half of the decade, however, the number grew by eighteen-million.

Today, the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than eight-hundred-forty-million people do not get enough to eat. That is one in seven people in the world. Most live in developing nations.

Hartwig de Haen helped write the F-A-O report. He says a lot of progress has been made to reduce hunger. In nineteen-seventy, almost forty percent of the world population was underfed. By two-thousand, the percentage was down to less than half that.

However, Mister De Haen says it is too early to tell if the recent increase represents a major change. He says the increase may be temporary, caused by a series of crises and conflicts. For example, the F-A-O says seventy-five percent of Congolese were underfed as of a few years ago, because of war.

The U-N report shows how nations with higher economic and agricultural growth have had more success reducing hunger. It says Brazil, for example, has cut the number of hungry people through programs to increase employment and food production. The Brazilian government also offers free or low-cost meals at schools and workplaces.

But the U-N report also shows how world hunger has been worsened by the AIDS crisis. In southern Africa, wage earners in many families have become infected with the AIDS virus and have had to leave their fields. The F-A-O says it expects AIDS to claim one-fifth or more of agricultural workers in most southern African nations by two-thousand-twenty.

The recent increase in world hunger is bad news for efforts to reduce the number of hungry people in the world by half by two-thousand-fifteen. World leaders set this goal in nineteen-ninety-six at the World Food Summit in Rome. The United Nations also approved it as a Millennium Development Goal in September of two-thousand.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.