world hunger report
A United Nations report has found that less than 800 million people worldwide are going hungry today -- a drop of 216 million over the last 25 years. In this photo, people receive a rice meal in a refugees camp in Batagula, southern Sri Lanka January 1, 2005. Reuters/Yves Herman YH/WS

A United Nations report has found that fewer than 800 million people worldwide are going hungry today, representing a 21 percent drop in the last 25 years. The findings of the report, released Wednesday, are significant as 2015 marks the end of the monitoring period of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets.

“A total of 72 developing countries out of 129, or more than half the countries monitored, have reached the MDG 1c hunger target,” the report, co-authored by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Program, said. The 1c target calls for halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger. This assessment is not conducted in developed nations.

According to the report, while there were 1.01 billion hungry people in 1990, that number is projected to have fallen to 795 million in the 2014-2016 period -- a 21 percent drop. However, when it comes to meeting the more ambitious target of reducing the absolute number of people who do not receive enough nutrients to live an active and healthy life, the world has not fared that well, with only 29 countries achieving this goal.

Countries in Latin America, east and southeastern Asia, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and north and west Africa, have led the progress, “even in the presence of significant population growth,” according to the report. However, progress has been slow and the situation has even deteriorated in many sub-Saharan African nations and countries in South Asia, including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

world hunger
Undernourishment trends: progress made in almost all regions, but at very different rates. FAO

Currently, sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence of undernourishment in the world where almost one in four people go hungry. Country-wise, India has the world's largest population of undernourished people -- an estimated 194.6 million, according to the report.

Despite this, “the near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime,” FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva said, in a press release.

The report also found that in countries that had failed to achieve the international hunger targets, progress had been hampered in recent years by extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife. In the African continent, for instance, 24 countries currently face food crises, twice as many as in 1990.

Overall, 19 percent, or nearly one in every five of the world’s undernourished people lives in regions enduring protracted crisis -- a number that could, in reality, be much higher as reliable data from conflict-torn and impoverished countries like Syria, Libya, South Sudan and Somalia are hard to come by. The report does not include complete U.N. data for these countries in its conclusions.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to improve food security,” the U.N. agencies said, in the press release. The report also suggested a number of measures to reduce world hunger. These include, among others, social protection plans for vulnerable groups employed in the informal economy and promoting enterprise in rural areas for a more even spread of economic growth.

“We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year,” da Silva said, in the press release.