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While the estimated number of hungry worldwide in 2006 hovered near the 1970 level of about 875,000 people (there was a significant dip from the 1970 to the mid-1990s, but then a rebound), the number of hungry has skyrocketed in recent years to more than 1 billion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

While the absolute numbers of hungry fluctuated a bit over the past few decades, the percentage of people who are undernourished has consistently declined since 1970. Until now. In 1970, the rate stood at about 24 percent of total world population, according to the FAO; by 2006, that number had fallen to about 13 percent. But by 2009 the estimated percentage had risen for the first time in decades to about 15 percent.

The reason for this uptick? Again according to the FAO, rising commodity and food prices between 2006 and 2008 that resulted in food crises in several developing countries, followed closely by the global economic meltdown.

Will these numbers continue to rise? What events--drought, flooding, etc.--have influenced commodity food prices this year?

**Side note for future discussion: What is the difference between "chronically hungry," "malnourished" and "undernourished"? The FAO seems to use them all interchangeably, in a report about that claims to look at "food insecurity."


Author

Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.