For the first time since the U.N. started counting, the number of people going hungry in the world has dropped below 800 million.
Fifteen years ago, the U.N. put eradicating hunger at the top of its Millennium Development Goals, and since then, the number of hungry people around the world has dropped by 167 million, according to a report out earlier this week.
"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime," said Food and Agriculture Organization Director General José Graziano da Silva. "We must be the Zero Hunger generation."
Report authors noted that hunger goals had been deterred by extreme weather events and political instability, and that the world population has grown by 1.9 billion since 1990, which makes the gains more impressive.
The biggest gains were made in South America, where less than 5 percent of the population now faces hunger — a whopping 50 percent reduction since 1990. Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and North Africa also saw significant reductions, according to the FAO.
Authors said the reduction is not just from economic growth, but from "inclusive growth" that supports the poor through social investments like cash transfers, food distribution, health care and education and employment projects.
Authors said that improvements had been achieved through "agricultural activity, inclusive economic growth and the expansion of social protection."
The work has also been helped along by good harvests in developing countries as well as reduced oil prices, which means that food costs have dipped in the last five years.
The places that still face the highest numbers of hunger are South Asia, where 281 million people lack food, and Sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest rates of hunger, with 23 percent of the population going to bed hungry.
"When we talk about these numbers, we need to remember we are talking about people," Josefina Stubbs, a senior official with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, told Reuters.
"The next 10 years will be fundamental for eradicating hunger."
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