Tuesday, October 16 is World Food Day, which marks the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 67 years ago, and calls attention each year to the persistent problem of world hunger. While FAO says that progress has been made and that there are 130 million fewer hungry people today than there were 20 years ago, it also offers statistics that underscore how food insecurity remains a major global challenge, particularly in the developing world:
- One in eight people in the world today are undernourished. That amounts to about 870 million people, or roughly the combined population of North America and the European Union.
- About 98 percent of these undernourished people live in developing countries.
- Poverty and poor agricultural infrastructure are two of the key causes of hunger and malnutrition. For that reason, investments in projects that help create jobs, build roads or improve infrastructure in other ways, can also help to address food insecurity.
- Women, who make up a little more than half of the world’s population, account for more than 60 percent of the world’s hungry.
- Hunger poses a significant economic burden, both on individuals and on national economies. The cost of hunger to developing nations is estimated at $450 billion per year.
OPIC, which in recent years has made renewable resources one of its investment priorities, recognizes that food is a renewable resource. The agency has worked to increase its focus on sustainable agriculture and clean water by supporting projects such as the modernization of the water system in Ghana, where there is a severe shortage of clean water for drinking and agriculture. In fact, OPIC’s focus on these key development issues helped the agency grow its total renewable resources commitments to $1.55 billion in fiscal year 2012, up 41 percent from the year before.
“By increasing exponentially our support for sustainable agriculture projects this year, we aimed to tackle one of the significant development challenges of our time – the growing need for greater food security in emerging markets,” said OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield.