Hunger Facts: International


World Hunger and Poverty: How They Fit Together

  • 1.02 billion people across the world are hungry. 1
  • Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes–one child every five seconds. 2
  • In essence, hunger is the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food. 3

  • Hunger manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness. 3

  • Countries in which a large portion of the population battles hunger daily are usually poor and often lack the social safety nets we enjoy, such as soup kitchens, food stamps, and job training programs. When a family that lives in a poor country cannot grow enough food or earn enough money to buy food, there is nowhere to turn for help. 3

Facts and Figures on Population

  • Today our world is home to 6.7 billion people. 4
  • The United States is a part of the high-income group of nations, which consists of about 65 countries with a combined population of about 1 billion, less than one sixth of the world’s population.  5
  • In contrast, approximately 5.6 billion people live in low and lower-middle income economies. This world, earning under $3,705 GNI per capita, is made up of about 103 low and middle income countries in which people generally have a lower standard of living with access to fewer goods and services than people in high-income countries. 6

Facts and Figures on Hunger and Poverty

  • In 2005, almost 1.4 billion people lived below the international poverty line, earning less than $1.25 per day. 7
  • Among this group of poor people, many have problems obtaining adequate, nutritious food for themselves and their families. As a result, 947 million people in the developing world are undernourished. They consume less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth. 8
  • Undernourishment negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to mental retardation. 1
  • Economically, the constant securing of food consumes valuable time and energy of poor people, allowing less time for work and earning income. 1
  • Socially, the lack of food erodes relationships and feeds shame so that those most in need of support are often least able to call on it. 1
  • Go to the World Food Programme website and click on either “Counting the Hungry” or “Interactive Hunger Map” for presentations on hunger and poverty around the world.

Facts and Figures on Health

  • Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. 9
  • Pregnant women, new mothers who breastfeed infants, and children are among the most at risk of undernourishment. 9
  • In 2006, about 9.7 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. Almost all of these deaths occured in developing countries, 4/5 of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the two regions that also suffer from the highest rates of hunger and malnutrition. 10
  • Most of these deaths are attributed, not to outright starvation, but to diseases that move in on vulnerable children whose bodies have been weakened by hunger. 11
  • Every year, more than 20 million low-birth weight babies are born in developing countries. These babies risk dying in infancy, while those who survive often suffer lifelong physical and cognitive disabilities. 12
  • The four most common childhood illnesses are diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, malaria and measles. Each of these illnesses is both preventable and treatable. Yet, again, poverty interferes in parents’ ability to access immunizations and medicines. Chronic undernourishment on top of insufficient treatment greatly increases a child’s risk of death. 11
  • In the developing world, 26 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely underweight. 10 percent are severely underweight. 11 percent of children under 5 are moderately to severely wasted, or seriously below weight for one’s height, and an overwhelming 32 percent are moderately to severely stunted, or seriously below normal height for one’s age. 13

Facts and Figures on HIV/AIDS

  • The spreading HIV/AIDS epidemic has quickly become a major obstacle in the fight against hunger and poverty in developing countries.
  • Because the majority of those falling sick with AIDS are young adults who normally harvest crops, food production has dropped dramatically in countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates. 13
  • In half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita economic growth is estimated to be falling by between 0.5 and 1.2 percent each year as a direct result of AIDS. 14
  • Infected adults also leave behind children and elderly relatives, who have little means to provide for themselves. In 2003, 12 million children were newly orphaned in southern Africa, a number expected to rise to 18 million in 2010. 14
  • Since the epidemic began, 25 million people have died from AIDS, which has caused more than 15 million children to lose at least one parent. For its analysis, UNICEF uses a term that illustrates the gravity of the situation; child-headed households, or minors orphaned by HIV/AIDS who are raising their siblings. 13, 15

  • 1 % (ages 15-49) of the world is HIV prevalent (2005 data). 5
  • 1.1 % (ages 15-49) of developing countries are HIV prevalent (2005 data). 5

  • Approximately 39.5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Of this figure, 63 percent live in Sub-Saharan Africa. 14

  • In 2006, 4.3 million people become infected with HIV and 2.9 million people died of AIDS. 14

Cites and links to source material:

1 State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2008 FAO.”Food Security Statistics”.

2 Black, Robert, Morris, Saul, & Jennifer Bryce. “Where and Why Are 10 Million Children Dying Every Year?” The Lancet 361:2226-2234. 2003.

3 Are We On Track To End Hunger? Hunger Report 2004. Bread for the World Institute. 2004.

4 2008 World Population Data Sheet, Population Reference Bureau.

5 World Development Indicators 2008. The World Bank. February 2008.

6 World Bank Country Classifications. The World Bank. February 2008.

7 Global Purchasing Power Parities and Real Expenditures. The World Bank. 2005 International Comparison Program. August 2008.

8 Global Development: Charting a New Course Hunger Report 2009. Bread for the World 2009

9 “Malnutrition”. World Health Organization.

10 State of the World’s Children 2008–Child Survival. UNICEF. January 2008.

11 State of Food Insecurity in the World 2002. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

12 Low Birthweight: Country, Regional and Global Estimates. World Health Organization. 2004.

13 “The Global Challenge of HIV/AIDS.” The Population Bulletin Vol. 61, No. 1. Population Reference Bureau. March 2006.

14Briefing Paper Hunger on the Rise: Soaring Prices Add 75 Million People to Global Hunger Rolls.” Food and Agriculture Organization. 17 September 2008.

15 Protect and Support Children Affected By HIV/AIDS.” UNICEF. March 2006.

Last updated: February 24, 2009

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