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More than 1 billion starving as economic crisis continues, U.N. reports


World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran presents the 2009 State of Food Insecurity report. The economic crisis has helped push the amount of starving people worldwide past 1 billion, the report says. (Photo: AP/Riccardo De Luca)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have released a report estimating that more than 1 billion people are going hungry worldwide, according to CNN.

The U.N. report comes on the eve of World Food Day, October 16, as the world economy struggles to start and sustain a recovery.

Most starvation is occurring in developing countries

According to the report, most of the malnourished reside in areas considered to be part of the developing world, including:

  • Asia and the Pacific (about 642 million people)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa (about 265 million people)
  • South America, the Caribbean, Near East and North Africa (95 million)

The report estimates that about 15 million people are at risk of starvation in the developed world.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's world population figures, there are almost 6.8 billion people living worldwide.

"It is unacceptable in the 21st century that almost one in six of the world's population is now going hungry," Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director, told CNN.

Rising food costs + Less money to go around = Shortfalls in aid

Officials from the U.N. have pinned part of the blame on the increase of at-risk communities on the economic crisis gripping the world. As governments struggle to revive faltering economies, and individuals tighten their wallets to save money, there has been less aid to compensate for the price increases of food that, in some areas, is increasingly scarce.

"At a time when there are more hungry people in the world than ever before, there is less food aid than we have seen in living memory," Sheeran said.

What can be done to feed the world?

The U.N. report urges government to act quickly and mobilize their resources and invest in agricultural projects and concerns, shore up farmers struggling and make them more resilient to future crises.

Increased attention to agriculture and food distribution schemes is vital, U.N. officials say, to combating short- and long-term hunger and poverty.

"We know what is needed to meet urgent hunger needs -- we just need the resources and the international commitment to do the job," Sheeran said.

Click to take a look at the U.N.'s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2009 report, and vote below: