Humanity will achieve the dubious distinction this year of having more than 1 billion members of its species living in hunger for the first time in history.
The number of undernourished is estimated to soar by about 100 million over last year, to 1.02 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The 11 percent surge in the world’s hungry is primarily a product of the global economic crisis, combined with persistently high food prices. World economic output is expected to decline by more than 3 percent this year—the first global contraction since the Second World War. The economic crisis, the FAO notes, “has reduced incomes and employment opportunities of the poor and significantly lowered their access to food.”
The world’s hungry are concentrated in Asia and the Pacific (642 million), Sub-Saharan Africa (265 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (53 million), and the Near East and North Africa (42 million). Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest concentration of hungry, while the Middle East and North Africa saw the most rapid growth in the number of hungry people (13.5 percent).
The agency’s definition of hunger is based on the number of calories consumed. Depending on the relative age and gender ratios of a given country, the cutoff varies between 1,600 and 2,000 calories a day.