Chronic undernourishment affects 830 million people

U.N. food agency blames wars, disasters, poverty


UNITED NATIONS - Hunger now afflicts 830 million people around the world because of natural disaster, armed conflict and a grinding poverty that consigns the poor to chronic malnutrition, the U.N. World Food Program reported yesterday.

"From generation to generation, people don't have enough food to eat," Catherine Bertini, the executive director of the food agency, said at a briefing, where she distributed a map identifying "hot spots" where hunger is most severe. The map shows large swaths of sub-Sahara Africa and Asia where millions of people, most of them women and children, cannot get enough to eat.

"The combination of poverty and disaster causes people to have even less possibility to build resources to end their hunger," Bertini said.

The WFP defines hunger as a condition in which people fail to get enough food for healthy lives. Those who are considered undernourished subsist on 1,800 calories a day or less. That's 300 fewer calories than the recommended amount to sustain a person.

Of the 830 million undernourished people, 791 million live in developing countries. The food agency said that 200 million were children under 5 years old who were underweight because of a lack of food.

In more than 20 countries, the existence of hunger has been compounded by drought.

"We've seen an alarming trend where the poorest nations are hit simultaneously by both natural and man-made emergencies, including in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Tajikistan," Bertini said. "Unfortunately, we see a potential for that to continue or even increase in 2001."

In sub-Sahara Africa, 180 million people, who account for one-third of the population, are undernourished, the agency reported. The countries worst-hit by hunger include Angola, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In Asia, the number of undernourished people is 525 million, or 17 percent of the population, with the worst hunger found in North Korea, Mongolia, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the number is 53 million people, or 11 percent of the population, with the worst conditions in Haiti, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Honduras.

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