Food Insecurity Persists in Sub-Saharan Africa despite Efforts to Halve Hunger by 2015 Page: 1 of 20
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Accountability * Integrity * Reliability
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548
July 17, 2008
Subject: Food Insecurity Persists in Sub-Saharan Africa despite Efforts to Halve Hunger
At the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS) in Rome, the United States and more than 180 world
leaders pledged to halve the total number of undernourished people worldwide from the 1990
level' -a commitment that they reaffirmed in 2000 when they established the Millennium
Development Goals (MDG), which included a target to halve the proportion or the percentage
of the world's population that is undernourished by 2015. More than a decade later, however,
the number of undernourished people has not decreased significantly, and about 850 million
people, including 170 million children, remain undernourished, according to the United
Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Furthermore, the number of
undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa has increased from about 170 million in the
period of 1990 to 1992 to over 200 million in the period of 2001 to 2003.2
Since early 2007, food-related riots have occurred in 15 countries, including 7 in sub-Saharan
Africa, leading both the UN Secretary-General and the head of the World Food Program
(WFP) to express concern about the impact of chronic undernourishment, or food insecurity,
on world peace and security.3 In January 2008, world leaders meeting in Davos, Switzerland,
for the World Economic Forum predicted that food insecurity would be among the top
potential threats to the world economy this year and for decades to come. In April 2008, the
President of the World Bank called for a New Deal for a Global Food Policy that would
involve a combination of long-term efforts to boost agricultural productivity in developing
countries and short-term emergency aid to address immediate food crises.
'The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines "undernourishment" as the condition of
people whose food consumption is continuously below a minimum dietary energy requirement for maintaining an
acceptable minimum body size, living a healthy life, and carrying out light physical activity. While we recognize
that there are different technical definitions for "chronic undernourishment," "food insecurity," and "hunger," we
use these terms interchangeably in this report.
2In its report entitled The State of Food and Agriculture (2006), FAO reported undernourishment estimates for 39
countries in sub-Saharan Africa: 6 countries in Central Africa, 8 in East Africa, 11 in southern Africa, and 14 in
West Africa. FAO makes a composite estimate for countries for which it lacks country-level data and uses that
estimate in developing its overall undernourishment estimates for sub-Saharan Africa. FAO uses the average of
the period of 1990 to 1992 as the baseline in measuring progress toward the WFS goal, and its most recent official
statistics available for undernourishment are for the period of 2001 to 2003.
3Between January 2007 and April 2008, 15 countries reported food riots and protests, according to WFP. These
countries are Burkina Faso, Cameroon, C6te d'Ivoire, Egypt, Guinea, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mauritania,
Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, and Yemen.
GAO-08-1007R International Food Insecurity
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Food Insecurity Persists in Sub-Saharan Africa despite Efforts to Halve Hunger by 2015, text, July 17, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302808/m1/1/: accessed May 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.