In 1996, a World Food Summit was held with 129 different countries from all over the world, in which they all pledged that they would attempt to halve the number of malnourished citizens within their borders by 2015. 

At the time, the number of hungry people in the world was judged to be over 1 billion, so it was a huge undertaking, made even more difficult by unforeseen and unprecedented political unrest and climate change that has affected how easily people can get food. And yet, there’s good news.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a majority of the countries that made the pledge actually achieved their goal. 72 of the countries successfully cut the prevalence of malnourishment by half. 

Bags of rice and grains

Today, the approximate number of malnourished people in the world is 795 million. That’s a big number, but it’s 216 million fewer than there were 12 years ago. 

The number is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the global population has increased by 1.9 billion since 1990, while the number of hungry people continues to shrink. That’s an encouraging trend.

“The near-achievement of the Millennium Development Goal hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement.

“We must be the Zero Hunger generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year.”

East Asia, Latin America, southeast and central Asia, and various parts of Africa showed the biggest declines in hunger. 

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the least amount of positive growth in nutrition — nearly one in every four people living in that part of the world is undernourished — but the good news is that African countries that invested the most in agricultural infrastructure saw the biggest gains.

The next goal on the horizon is completely eradicating hunger. That’s a big goal, but the past ten years have proved that it’s a long way from impossible.

A version of this article was originally published in Issue 01 of the Goodnewspaper in July 2017.