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Hunger - all facts at a glance

Hunger - causes, prevalence, consequences

815 million people are going hungry. We demand: Nobody should have to suffer from hunger!

815 million people are going hungry, every ten seconds a child dies from the effects of malnutrition and undernourishment. At the same time, there is enough food, knowledge and resources to eliminate hunger.

Hunger definition - WHAT is hunger?

If experts talk about hunger, they differentiate between two types: Acute and chronic hunger.

Hunger worldwide: experts differentiate acute and chronic hunger


Acute hunger (famine): Designates undernourishment over a definable period. This frequently appears in connection with crises (e.g. droughts induced by El Niño), wars and disasters and often affects people who are already suffering from chronic hunger. Almost ten per cent of all hungry people are affected by acute hunger.

Chronic hunger: Designates a state of long-term undernourishment. Although the media usually only report on acute hunger crises, the overwhelming majority of all people going hungry are affected by chronic hunger. They have too little to eat, and usually also no clean water or healthcare provision. 

Hunger is also differentiated according to the specific deficiencies in the nutrition:

Hunger due to energy and protein deficiency (macro-nutrients): Less food is ingested each day than the body needs. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization FAO has defined the threshold value at 1,800 calories daily. From this, the number of 795 million hungry people is calculated. It should be borne in mind, however, that especially poor people often have to undertake hard physical labour and, therefore, the value would actually need to be higher.

"Hidden" hunger due to vitamin and mineral deficiency (micro-nutrients): Due to one-sided nutrition, there is a deficiency in important nutrients such as iron, iodine, zinc or vitamin A. The consequences are not necessarily visible at first glance, but children in particular are unable to develop properly, both mentally and physically. The risk of death is high. Globally, two billion people suffer from "hidden hunger".

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WHO is going most hungry?

The hunger situation is particularly bad in the countryside

The situation is particularly bad in the countryside; three-quarters of all hungry people live there. Almost all of them produce food themselves. As small farmers, however, they and their families cultivate only small fields, on average just 1.6 hectares, which is the equivalent of about two football pitches. Likewise frequently affected by hunger are pastoralists, who as (semi) nomads have fewer and fewer pasturelands available, as well as native peoples (indigenous groups), who subsist traditionally from forest fruits and other gathered plants, but are often displaced from their land. Landless people, who have to work for low wages as day labourers, are also seriously threatened by hunger.

Within these groups, women and children are particularly affected. In many poorer countries, cultural traditions and social structures are the cause of women being less well educated and having scarce opportunities to earn their living. Women also usually have no own resources such as land or capital. Nevertheless, the double burden of working the fields and child upbringing frequently rests on them. This can lead to children not receiving enough care or too little or poor nutrition. A lack of knowledge about nutritional and hygiene issues increase this risk further.

WHERE is there hunger?

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) provides as precise as possible a picture of global nutrition and hunger. It measures the nutritional state of the population on the basis of four indicators. It has been published for the last ten years by Welthungerhilfe together with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington.

Kerstin Bandsom

Kerstin Bandsom

0228-22 88 127

Infographic: hunger
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Infographic: facts and figures on hunger.
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From our projects
Farmer in Cambodia

Hunger in a natural paradise:


Land grabbing and hidden hunger:


Farmers are fighting against the consequences of climate change:


Cooperatives and urban gardening:


Seven of the eight countries, in which the hunger situation is classified as "alarming" or "extremely alarming", lie in Africa south of the Sahara: Central African Republic, Chad, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Madagascar and Sudan. In Yemen the situation is also classified as "alarming". In many south Asian countries such as Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia the situation is also classified as serious.  

GHI scores for 2017 could not be calculated for 13 countries, including South Sudan, Somalia and Syria, because the available data was insufficient. Yet the countries with missing data may be the ones suffering most.

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WHY is there hunger?

Infographic: Why do people go hungry?


Wars and conflicts: Due to armed conflicts, people have to flee and are therefore no longer in the position to cultivate their fields. Frequently they lose all of their possessions. Roads and agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation facilities are destroyed. Due to the limited security, trade also suffers; food is therefore rare and expensive.

Natural disasters: Weather extremes have always led to hunger crises. Droughts and floods destroy harvests. With climate change, extreme weather events are increasing. Droughts in several consecutive years weaken the resilience of the population. They have to use up their supplies of seeds or slaughter livestock. 

Poverty: Worldwide, there is sufficient food being produced at present to feed all humans. Hunger is, above all, a consequence of poverty. Someone who is poor has insufficient money for food but also cannot provide for his own health and cannot invest in education for children. Women are particularly disadvantaged here, due to their often lower social status. 

Inequality: The inequality between poor and rich is intensifying, both globally and within countries. One per cent of the global population possesses nearly half of the global fortune. The "lower billion" of the poor and hungry have barely a chance to free themselves from their misery. 

Distorted global trade: The rich states determine the rules of international policy. Unfair trade agreements and subsidies create market access and price advantages for enterprises from rich countries. Raw materials in particular are exported from poor countries, the profits creamed off in rich countries. 

Bad governance: Governments in developing countries mostly do not orient their policies at the needs of the poorest population. There is a lack of strategies to promote agriculture in their country in such a way that hunger is combated. Corruption is one of the greatest obstacles to development, and land grabbing is a major problem. 

Waste of resources and climate change: If all people lived as the rich countries do, resources such as water and lands would soon be used up. The consequences are borne by others: Expansion of deserts, soil erosion, water shortages and extreme weather events as consequence of climate change become particularly apparent in the countries that suffer anyway from hunger and poverty. 

What are the CONSEQUENCES of hunger?

Child mortality as a consequence of hunger


Undernourishment is not only a consequence of poverty, it also causes poverty, by being passed on from generation to generation – a vicious circle. If mothers-to-be are already undernourished, their children cannot develop correctly during pregnancy and are frequently born prematurely and/or underweight.

If a child already suffers from malnutrition in the womb, it has little chance of catching up on its underdevelopment. It often has a weakened immune system and is thus more susceptible to infectious diseases. The physical and mental development of the child is restricted, it has more difficulty concentrating and produces poorer school results. In addition, a malnourished child is also more susceptible to develop chronic diseases in adulthood. Both lead to the tendency that the child, in adulthood too, has a reduced physical and mental performance, and thus poorer earning opportunities and a higher risk of poverty.

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Hunger and Poverty - More Information

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