Parth Sanyal / Reuters A boy eats sugarcane in Fakirpara village, about 80 miles north west of the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, October 11, 2007.

The Hunger Game

How to End Global Malnutrition

Last week, at their 41st summit, the G7 nations set an unusually specific commitment: to end hunger and malnutrition for 500 million people by 2030. Insider accounts suggest that the target was a personal priority of Angela Merkel, the famously scientific German chancellor and host of the event. Yet despite the high-level policy attention to global hunger, certainly a positive step, the G7 commitment remains incomplete.

For one thing, the 500 million target is too low. According to the 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report, the UN publication that tracks global hunger, there are roughly 795 million hungry people in the world. It is not clear why the G7 has excluded 295 million from its commitment, especially since the same countries are in the middle of negotiating a UN-linked “sustainable development goal” to eliminate hunger by 2030. That global goal is premised on the notion that no one should be left behind, certainly not 295 million people. Perhaps the G7 is counting on other advanced economies to fill the gap. But the ambiguity exemplifies a broader problem affecting today’s global hunger efforts: goals exist without practical strategies for how to achieve them.

A boy eats roti at a slum in Mumbai, February 2009. India ranks 94th in the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries.

That was not always the case. In 2009, at the L’Aquila summit, the G8 made a substantial $20 billion commitment to help achieve global food security. But global pledge fatigue and mixed records of donor government follow-through made L’Aquila the last of a series of high-profile collective donor commitments toward global development during the 2000s.


The scale of the current global challenge was framed in the recent State of Food Insecurity in the World report, which celebrated the developing world’s progress in reducing the number of people living in hunger between 1990 and 2015. The good news is that the percentage of the developing world suffering from undernourishment has dropped by almost half, from around 23 percent in 1990 to 13 percent today. But the bad news is that the actual number of hungry people in these countries has decreased only slightly, from 990 million

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