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Hunger still a massive problem globally, UN report says

According to a fresh United Nations report, one-in-eight people worldwide still goes hungry. And although progress has been made in many regions, a relevant Millennium Development Goal looks hard to meet.

UN food agencies said Tuesday that an estimated 842 million people worldwide suffered chronic hunger in the 2011-13 period under review. That's 12 percent of the world's population, down 17 percent from levels recorded between 1990 and 1992.

The new figure was also lower than the last estimate of 868 million hungry people in 2010-12, UN officials pointed out.

The report on food insecurity was compiled jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The study warned world leaders that some regions were likely to fail in halving the number of undernourished people by 2015 as defined in a UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG).

It listed East and South East Asia and Latin America as some of the regions that made the most progress in alleviating hunger, but saw no advances in West Africa and only slow progress in southern and northern Africa.

Setting the right priorities

"Countries that have experienced conflict during the past two decades are more likely to have seen significant setbacks in reducing hunger," the report said. "Landlocked nations face persistent challenges in accessing world markets, while countries with poor infrastructure and weak institutions encounter additional constraints."

The UN defined undernourishment as not having enough food for an active and healthy life and as an inability to meet "dietary energy requirements."

The study urged world leaders to pursue policies aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, particularly in nations where poverty was widespread.

"When such policies are combined with social protection and other measures that increase incomes of poor families to buy food, they can have an even more positive effect," the experts argued.

hg/ipj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)