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Hunger Rates Fall, but the Decrease Slows

Indian street children eat food at a shanty town in Hyderabad
Indian street children eat food at a shanty town in Hyderabad

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

The latest Global Hunger Index report says the number of hungry people worldwide has fallen twenty-five percent since nineteen ninety.

Last year the estimate topped one billion for the first time. But this year's report says the number of people not getting enough to eat has fallen to nine hundred twenty-five million.

Still, many experts worry that hunger rates are not falling fast enough to meet United Nations goals. One of the first of the Millennium Development Goals is to reduce the hunger rate by fifty percent between nineteen ninety and twenty fifteen.

Caroline Hurford at the U.N. World Food Program says the reduction in hunger rates has slowed in recent years.

CAROLINE HURFORD: "There has been a slight dropping off in the number of hungry people in the late nineteen nineties. But then it rose again, of course, during the financial crisis of two thousand seven-two thousand eight. And then the very high food prices, together with the high fuel prices, really knocked everything off track again. And then, of course, climate change has come in and that's made it more difficult to grow food."

The Global Hunger Index is prepared by three private organizations based in Germany, the United States and Ireland. The latest report says twenty-nine countries have levels of hunger that are considered "alarming."

The biggest increases were found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The report says hunger has risen by more than sixty-five percent since nineteen ninety because of conflict and political insecurity.

And Caroline Hurford says Congo is not alone.

CAROLINE HURFORD: "Clearly conflict is a huge problem as far as the actual growing of produce and crops is concerned. People can't necessarily tend their fields if they are always being chased away by armed rebels."

A separate report says twenty-two countries have suffered from a hunger and food crisis for at least eight years. Twenty percent of the world's hungry live in these countries, most of which are in Africa.

That report is from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program. They say new policies are needed to deal with these long-term crises. Peter Smerdon at the World Food Program says emergency aid must include development assistance.

PETER SMERDON: "You have to do both things. You have to do both development and emergency assistance to keep people alive to reverse the situation. Otherwise, you're just going to be stuck in a protracted crisis, and have to keep trying to put out the fire. But you're not actually changing the structure of the crisis at all."

Both reports were released ahead of World Food Day this past Saturday.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at I'm Mario Ritter.