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Hungry Up By 100 Million In S Asia: Report PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 June 2009

The number of hungry people in South Asia has jumped by 100 million in the past two years, aggravated by high food and fuel prices and the global economic slowdown, a UNICEF report said on Tuesday.

More than 400 million people are now chronically hungry in South Asia, the region's highest level in 40 years, the report said, adding calorie intake has remained stagnant or fallen in many countries despite rising per capita incomes.

More than 1.18 billion people, or three quarters of the region's population, survive on less than $2 a day, the report said. Nearly half of children under five are malnourished, the worst level in the world including Sub-Saharan Africa.

"We are on the verge of a crisis," Aniruddha Bonnerjee, a consultant for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in New Delhi after releasing the report.

The region shed millions of jobs since the financial crisis hit, especially in the export sector as global demand fell.

The report covered Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

High prices have forced the poorest families in the region, who spend the bulk of their income on food, to cut back on other essentials such as health and education and borrow money at high interest, the report said.

That makes the poor more vulnerable to future shocks and dents their prospects of lifting themselves out of poverty, especially neglected groups such as women and children.

"The potential loss of capacity and productivity amongst a generation of children and young adults ... should be of major concern to countries dependent on an able energetic and young population to fuel economic growth and future prosperity," the report said.

The slowdown has also hit industries such as tourism in South Asia and remittances sent from more developed countries.

India's economy, the region's biggest, which grew at around 9 percent a year in the recent boom, is seen to slow to about 6 percent in 2009/10.

Countries such as India did not make use of the good years to tackle poverty and hunger, UNICEF said.

"We are in the midst of a recession," Bonnerjee said.

"When you had growth rates of eight, nine and in some cases 15, 16 percent, we made no progress on malnutrition, on hunger, on including women and children in the society. How are we going to do it now?"


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